After 470 days since his last NBA game, Ben Simmons hit the court for the first time for the Brooklyn Nets in pre-season, giving fans a glimpse of what’s to come. 

Simmons has been sidelined since the 2021 playoffs and following a trade to Brooklyn, he didn’t play a single minute last season, before undergoing back surgery in the offseason.

While the 76ers didn’t play stars Joel Embiid and James Harden, the Nets had their Big 3 in the starting lineup, with Simmons alongside Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Joe Harris and Nic Claxton in the 127-108 loss.

How did Ben Simmons play in his Nets debut?

Back to full health, in 19 minutes on court, Simmons posted six points, five assists, four rebounds and a steal, showing his playmaking touch and strength inside have gone nowhere. 

Posting up on the left block, Simmons quickly scanned the floor, before firing off a cross-court pass to Royce O’Neale for a 3-pointer.

With Irving and Durant likely to have the ball in their hands for long stretches, Simmons’ creativity in the post, either to score or assist, adds a new wrinkle to their offense.

While the half-court fit will take time to iron out, Simmons’ greatest strength on this Nets team is going to be creating in transition and we got an early glimpse as he combined with Nic Claxton on a slick no-look dime. 

Offensively when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands, Simmons will serve as an interior threat for the Nets.

In the second quarter, with Kevin Durant surrounded by four 76ers defenders, Simmons lurked on the baseline and was able to throw down a wide-open dunk.

We’re going to see a lot of that this season. 

“I’m grateful just to be able to step on that floor,” Simmons said. “Step on an NBA floor again. I had a lot of fun out there.”

What does Simmons’ return mean for the Nets?

It’s hard to read too much into a 19-minute cameo, but for the most part, Simmons’ first outing should give Nets fans plenty to be excited about. 

Aside from a wayward jump shot and missing his two free throw attempts, the three-time All-Star demonstrated the things that count for the Nets — attacking the basket, finding open teammates, and guarding multiple positions. 

Getting to the free throw line is an area head coach Steve Nash highlighted before the game and for Simmons, a career 59.7 percent shooter at the line, right now, getting there is more important than making them for Nets head coach Steve Nash. 

“To be honest, whether Ben is super-efficient from the line or not, I still want him to go to the line,” Nash said. 

“Go to the line, stay aggressive, and I want to take the risk off his play. I’m not going to be discouraged if he doesn’t shoot a better percentage than he has in the past.” 

Ben Simmons Brooklyn Nets

With the Nets running a new-look offense, they at times looked stagnant and fell into a 20-point hole, but the foundations are there.

Irving and Durant deferred to Simmons as the lead playmaker from tip-off and when Claxton went to the bench, Nash tested out Simmons as a point center.

As they continue to mesh their new core, expect to see a variety of lineups in pre-season including Simmons, such is the strength of his versatility and athleticism. 

“I was pleased overall,” Nash said following the game. “I think it’s all so new. We got to go through this. Guys need time together. Ben’s playing with a totally different unit than he has in the past, different style.

“It’s going to be ugly at times, but I thought as the half wore on you definitely started to see glimpses of the potential. The way the ball moved. The way they were hounding the basketball defensively. I thought Ben looked pretty good overall and grew into the game through the half.”

The Nets’ pre-season action continues on Thursday, October 6 when they host the Miami Heat, with tip-off set for 7:30 p.m. ET.

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