After going from injured to ineffective to absent in a season and a half, Ben Simmons acknowledged that he owes it to his Nets and their fans to return to his old form.
And he clearly said that it will be easier to achieve this if everyone on the team finally pulls together in the same direction, focused more on winning than on themselves.
Make of that what you will.
“I would say (the hardest part was) not being able to do your job to the fullest. I never make excuses, I never tried to say anything about different things that happen. But I was dealing with an injury at the time, so I did what I could at the time,” Simmons said. “And I owe it to everyone, the fans and everyone, to get back to where I need to be. “That’s what I did this summer to get back.”
After Simmons came to Brooklyn at the 2022 trade deadline at the expense of former MVP James Harden, he did not play a single second that season, citing mental health issues and back issues.
He underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc in May and played only 42 games last season, many of them poorly.
But several experts told The Post that his full recovery would take 18 months, and Simmons confirmed this.
That should put the former All-Star on track to be 100 percent in November (a month into the season) and he has been training in Miami, impressing the Nets players and brass who have come to see him.
“(I feel incredible. I think this is the first summer where I’ve really had to pick myself up and get back on track to where I need to be,” Simmons said. “I’m very excited to be in Brooklyn, obviously. And then we have a great team, a great coach in Jacque Vaughn. So I’m excited. “I think this year will be a completely different year than before.”
Simmons was at HSS Training Center, speaking with FOX-5 at their youth basketball clinic and mentoring event hosted in conjunction with RISE.
It’s an eight-week leadership event, and it was noteworthy that Simmons praised the leadership of these current Nets as being more conducive to success than the leadership of the failed Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving superteam.
When asked what he’s most excited about creating for players like Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, he simply said that they’re all headed in the same direction now.
“I think just playing with guys who are easy to play with, who have one goal and that is to win. I don’t think guys have too many individual goals,” Simmons said. “I think the team is going to come first and I think the culture that Jacque Vaughn and (general manager) Sean Marks are building now has been incredible.”
Many would say shade is being thrown at Durant and Irving.
But it should be noted that, at least in Durant’s case, the Suns star maintains excellent relations with the Nets’ ownership and management and is well-liked.
Goran Dragic, raised in the spirit of the Heat team, had revealed upon his departure that playing in Brooklyn had been difficult for him because the emphasis was too much on individual success and not enough on the collective.
Bridges himself acknowledged that he was different from some of the deceased players because he doesn’t cause drama.
For his part, Simmons is the only current Net to have played in an All-Star Game.
He was named to three, playing as a point guard for the Sixers.
Now the Australian said Vaughn assured him that is where he will play next season.
“That’s what I know. No matter how much people tried to put me (as a power forward). Everybody’s a general manager in their head: I’m a point guard,” Simmons said. “So I think with the team we have it is well built so we can have a good run.
“Get ready for a great year. I think it’s going to be exciting. “We’re going to have a lot of fun and get back to Brooklyn basketball.”
The Post was the first to report Monday that Noah Eagle, the 25-year-old son of Emmy-winning Ian Eagle, will join the YES broadcasts starting Dec. 2, when the Nets host the Magic at Barclays Center. He covers the growing national commitments of old Eagle and Ryan Rucco.
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