Steve Nash is so enamored with Ben Simmons’ skill set that he said he doesn’t care if the 6-10 Australian “ever shoots a jump shot” this season.
“Very unique. That’s what makes Ben great,” the Nets coach said Wednesday after the second full practice of training camp. “That’s why I don’t care if he ever shoots a jump shot for Brooklyn. “He’s welcome to, but that is not what makes him special and not what we need. He’s a great complement to our team and he’s an incredible basketball player because of his versatility.”
Simmons’ reluctance to shoot has been well-documented, so much so that when Nash’s comment about not caring if he ever shoots a jump shot was tweeted out at practice, one follower tweeted back that at least the coach and player were on the same page.
Yet, what has been lost in all the drama of Simmons’ shooting struggles with Philadelphia against Atlanta in the 2021 playoffs, is that when Simmons is playing his best basketball, he is a remarkable facilitator who makes everyone on the floor better.
Simmons has the size of a forward but the skills of a guard. He also has a resume that’s nothing to sneeze at: In his first four seasons in the league, Simmons won Rookie of the Year, made three All-Star Game appearances and was twice named to the All-Defensive first team.
Simmons hasn’t played in a full season. He sat out the beginning of last season while waiting to be traded out of Philadelphia. After being traded to the Nets, he stayed sidelined as he dealt with rehab from a back injury and some mental health issues.
Simmons said he felt “amazing” after practice Wednesday and was thrilled to be practicing fully alongside superstars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. He has good reason to be. Simmons should be a better fit with the Nets and their two superstars than he was with the 76ers and Joel Embiid.
“I think Ben’s just such an incredible playmaker,” Nash said. “Besides speed and ability, unselfishness, he’s always looking to get guys open. He's a great screener, terrific vision. With his size and speed he's able to push the ball in transition and also get in the gaps. So a great fit for Kevin and Ky to try to make the game a little bit easier for them.”
Nash, who said he would be comfortable using Simmons as a center if the situation called for it, doesn’t think it will take the three players long to get used to one another.
“I think they'll have a certain element of cohesion out the gates, because they’re all really good basketball players. But hopefully it's something that ever evolves and they can continue to find ways to make each other better. That's the beauty. I think they actually fit really well together. But it may take time. But out the gates they’re still three great basketball players that I think are excited to play together and will make things happen immediately.”
Simmons is excited to do anything he can to make it easier on Irving and Durant.
“I mean, you play with some great NBA players, some of the greatest,” Simmons said. “So for me, it's just playing alongside them figuring out where they want their shots, how they move, the different spots on the floor where I need to be. It's just timing.”
Notes & quotes: Nash is hopeful that guard Seth Curry, who is dealing with a lingering ankle injury, will play in the team’s final preseason game in Minnesota on Oct. 14. He said T.J. Warren, who missed most of the past two seasons with a foot injury, will not be ready to start the season.