Ben Simmons has high expectations once his Nets career finally gets underway on the court.
The three-time NBA All-Star didn’t appear in a game following his February arrival in the James Harden blockbuster, mostly due to a back injury that eventually required surgery. Simmons said on JJ Redick’s “The Old Man and the Three” podcast that he’s eagerly anticipating his first game this season alongside returning Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn.
“It’s going to be sick, I can’t wait. I’m so excited,” Simmons said. “I’ve got a new number, a new jersey. I’m just looking forward to it. I think we have a special team and if we get it all together we’re going to be champions. That’s the end goal.
“But yeah, I’m excited. It’s New York City. I’m playing with some unbelievable players, and a great coaching staff.”
The 26-year-old Simmons who will wear No. 10 with the Nets, had been pushing to make his team debut in Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs last spring, but he suffered a setback and Brooklyn’s season ended with a four-game sweep by the Celtics.
“Terrible,” Simmons said. “Thing is, you have a lot of guys in the NBA that might be like, ‘Oh, I’m sore today. I’m hurt. I can’t play.’ And the situation I’m in is not a normal situation, so it’s hard for me to be like, ‘I actually can’t play.’
“But me, knowing me, I’m like, ‘Let me just try and prove them wrong. Let me try and get on the court,’ because everyone’s saying, like, ‘You need to play, otherwise it’s going to be bad for you.’ I’m like, ‘All right.’ So when it got to that point, when I’m in practice, like, I know I’m not feeling right. I can’t, my muscles — my glutes’ [are] not working. I can’t jump, I can’t dunk. And people don’t see that stuff.
“But that was the reality of it. And me, I’m about to play, I’m about to go into Game 4 — I tried to go into Game 4. I’m on the ground, I can’t even move. So it’s a real thing. And for me, it was frustrating because you have everyone saying whatever. But I try to block that out. If I’m hurt, I’m hurt. I’m not trying to sit out.”
Simmons, who has made just 5 of 34 3-point attempts with a .597 free-throw percentage through four NBA seasons, admitted that criticism of his shooting ability and/or reluctance to shoot the ball is “for sure” frustrating.
“But it’s also one of my weaknesses, so what am I going to get mad at people for saying I’m not good at something?” he added. “Like ok yeah cool. I’m going to practice and get better. It is what it is. And that’s just part of the game. If I was a guy that sucked and people didn’t care, people wouldn’t be mentioning my name.”
Simmons also expanded on his exit from Philadelphia, including being kicked out of a practice by coach Doc Rivers and his trade request after holding out at the start of last season due to mental-health issues.
“It seems like everyone’s just trying to f–k with me,” Simmons said. “Like, I’m getting fined for not lifting weights, but, physically, I’m like one of the strongest guys on the f–king team. So they’re fining me for little things. It was just a buildup…Obviously I didn’t handle things the right way, but also the team didn’t either and the people who had that power.”