Nets guard Ben Simmons brings the ball upcourt against the Bulls...

Nets guard Ben Simmons brings the ball upcourt against the Bulls during the third quarter at Barclays Center on Thursday. Credit: Brad Penner

Ben Simmons is ready to hoop with his new group of teammates.

Simmons, the only player remaining on the Nets who has played in an All-Star game, told Newsday Thursday that he was looking forward to raising the level of his game with the new group of players the Nets obtained at the trade deadline while dealing away Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

“We got a great group of guys, guys who just want to play basketball,” Simmons said. “So I'm excited just to play. I'm kind of tired of just, you know, any focus being away from basketball.

“Obviously, I've had a crazy year-and-a-half so I kind of just want to play basketball and get back to feeling like myself. So it's good. I wish K.D well. He’s a tremendous basketball player. I have a lot of respect for him... But I’m happy with the guys we’ve got here.”

The Nets acquired Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, five first-round and two second-round picks in the two blockbuster trades.

When the Nets obtained Simmons from the 76ers in the James Harden trade last year, he famously said "it's going to be scary” playing alongside Durant and Irving. In many ways, Simmons was right — even though it wasn’t the same type of scary that he likely meant in his introductory press conference.

Simmons has struggled to get back to the level of player he was before a back injury and mental issues sidelined him for all of last season. In 39 games with the Nets this season, Simmons is averaging 7.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists — all career lows. He also has missed 16 games with a nagging knee problem that he says is related from having surgery in the offseason on his back.

Oddly enough, Simmons could benefit greatly from the trade of the two superstars.

When Simmons went from the 76ers to the Nets, he went from one pressure cooker to another. With this new group of teammates, he won’t be operating under such an intense spotlight and it could be easier to get his game back to where he wants it.

Simmons was asked whether he thought this new group is a chance for him to step up and play a bigger role.

“Definitely,” Simmons said. “I’m trying to build myself up to the level I was playing at, getting the body right. So, it’s going to take time, but I think overall just doing what I can.

Simmons will play against the 76ers with this new group for the first time on Saturday at Barclays Center.

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