Ben Simmons, Nets happy to put Philadelphia return behind them

Nov 22, 2022;  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA;  Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons (R) and Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris (L) shake hands after the game at Wells Fargo Center.

Nov 22, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons (R) and Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris (L) shake hands after the game at Wells Fargo Center. / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Simmons‘ return to Philadelphia was spoiled by a spunky 76ers bunch as the nets took a disheartening 115-106 loss Tuesday night to put their record at 8-10. However, the story before and during the game was how Simmons performed in the city he called home for five seasons.

“Really good,” Nets coach Jacques Vaughn said of Simmons’ performance. “He was in attack mode, he was aggressive. He showed a lot of poise throughout the course of the night. Overall, the experience to get through and get it behind him was good.”

In 32 minutes, Simmons shot 4-of-7 for 11 points with 11 assists, seven steals, three blocks and three steals. A complete game from the three-time All-Star, but it wasn’t the offensive outburst that the Nets have seen from the guard the last couple of games.

Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies, Simmons scored a season-high 22 points while he dropped 15 points a few days prior against the Portland Trail Blazers. Despite the low offensive output against the 76ers, Simmons was all over the floor, making hustle plays to get his teammates involved. It looked like how Simmons played before the rift between him and the city formed.

“For me, I don’t know, I feel like I’m in a good place, for me to come in here and just play basketball,” Simmons said. “I’m happy, I’m doing what I love so to be out there and have that experience was amazing. Obviously it wasn’t the result we wanted, it was frustrating to lose a game like that, but I think it’s a good step forward.”

Simmons was calm and almost playful on the floor despite thousands of Philadelphia fans booing every time he touched the ball. He shushed the crowd after a putback, shrugged after making a free throw, things that didn’t seem to happen after Simmons forced his way out of Philadelphia and the team traded him to Brooklyn for Harden.

While Simmons had traveled to Philadelphia with the Nets last season, he was on the bench but didn’t play. But it’s different when you’re on the floor, and the 26-year-old understands that there is no love lost in the City of Brotherly Love.

“I think it’s going to be like this forever, I don’t really see it changing,” Simmons said. “Yeah I think every opportunity to go, especially an experience like this to play in Philadelphia, you know I haven’t played here yet. Obviously it’s one step in the right direction for me as a player and I think it was a good experience .”

“As professionals coming into an environment where you want to play well against your former team, it is a mental hurdle you have to get over,” Kyrie Irving said after the game. “[Simmons] played extremely well a game ago and played well tonight. We just have to play together, support each other. It was just one game against the Philadelphia 76ers. Obviously there was a lot of emotions, but we have to focus on getting our team wins.”

In fact, Simmons figured the Philly crowd would be louder but he said he has some nice interactions with fans before and during the game. Perhaps there’s more love in Philly than even Simmons thought.

“It was just nice to see, have support in Philadelphia still,” Simmons said. “Lifelong fans, they do support me, so that was really cool to see. And that’s a nice feeling. I think I did some things in Philadelphia that can be respected and appreciated. I don’t think we all had bad times. It was good to have moments like that.”

With the Philly game behind him and the team, Brooklyn and Simmons must now figure out how to be more consistent and win games. With this season likely being the last time they’ll have Kevin DurantIrving and Simmons on the floor together, they need to figure out a way to make the most of it.

They’ll try again Wednesday when they travel to Toronto to take on the Raptors.

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