In an hour and a quarter interview with JJ Redick and Tommy Alter, Ben Simmons spoke about a lot of things from his philosophy of basketball to his mental health in Philly, but for Nets fans, the big takeaway is this: he’s confident that he’ I’ll be back and in a good place.
Throughout the interview, Simmons was both candid about his past and optimistic about his — and the Nets — future.
“I’ll be great,” Simmons said when asked about whether he’s ready The Oldman and The Three podcast. “I am excited to play with Kev, Ky, Joe Harris, all those guys. We have just an unbelievable team. For me, after the surgery, I knew what it was going to take to get back to where I needed to be and I’ve been locked in. it’s been tough and no rehab is easy and it’s a grind but that’s what it’s all about.”
Simmons also envisioned his role in the Nets offense, agreeing with Redick that he could thrive at the 5 but leaving things open, knowing the Nets have a wealth of talent.
“The talent that we have, the type of players that we have, we’re going to be able to run the floor. You know we got Claxton who can run, who moves incredibly well. I mean, Kev, Patty, Ky, Joe. We just got Royce, another great 3-and-D guy. I’m missing people.
“This team right now is just a great fit for what I do and what I bring to the game….I feel like it’s Philly on steroids in terms of what we had when you (Redick), Marco (Belinelli,) Ersan (Ilyasova ) were there,” a reference to the 2017-18 team who won 52 games, including 16 straight at the end of the season.
“It’s exciting knowing I’m going to play with those guys, knowing their games and I won’t have to f***ing guard Kyrie and Kevin,” he said, adding “You don’t guard Kevin. Nobody guards Kevin. Those guys are so incredibly talented. Their focus is incredible. Just seeing him work, but yeah, no one’s guarding Kevin or Ky.”
“It’s going to be sick, I can’t wait. I’m so excited. 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.”
He explained how he sees his best offensive skill as passing, that he gets as big a thrill out of an assist as he does from scoring.
“Growing up in Australia, it’s moving the ball, it’s cutting. it’s passing its running. That’s what basketball is. The game here is so much different. if you actually look at the amount of points I generate in different ways, it’s a lot of points and we did some amazing things in Philly but I think it is overlooked. but that’s okay.
“For me, it’s easy. Some passes I make, it’s a feeling. The way I move, my body, seeing a space in the game where I can throw a bounce pass or lob it over. It’s just a read and it’s a feeling for me. I’d love to say it’s hard, but it feels easy for me.”
Asked by Redick, ‘Are you going to shoot some threes for the Nets this year?’ Simmons first deadpan, then laughing: :Yeah I need to. I’m going to go out there and put some up. Kevin’s wide open? nope!”
Simmons also spoke about the Nets organization since he joined the team back in February.
“Its been great. Obviously, it’s going to be good getting traded for the first few moments,” said Simmons. “It’s been consistent. The foundation they have is great. Coaching staff has been incredible. Trainers have been great. Everyone’s been … it’s a very calm place to be but it’s a good environment. Every day, everyone has a happy face on. Everyone just wants to work and is very locked in when you go into that facility.”
Simmons also laughed off the suggestion by Ric Bucher of FOX Sports that he dropped off a group text in the run-up to Game 4 of the Celtics series when for a while it looked like he would join the Nets on the court. “No, I didn’t.” He also had some tough comments about Bucher.
“That’s what I hate about the internet. These f***ing people just make anything up,” he said. “I almost DM’ed him! I almost DM’ed him, man!”
He also spoke about how he first noticed the back pain that kept him off the court after the trade and led to off-season surgery.
“I was actually going up the stairs. I initially had some soreness in my back when I was working out and I went to go up the stairs, hop up the stairs and my whole right side just dropped. As soon as I went up stairs, I just dropped. As soon as I got up the stairs, I laid down and could not move.”
Simmons said it reminded him of an injury in 2020 when he missed eight games after experiencing back pain during a game against the Bucks.
“Pain goes all the way to your leg,” he recounted. “Couldn’t sit like this. Couldn’t sit in a car. Everything I was doing was painful.”
Simmons didn’t provide any details on timing, but the Nets dealt for him on February 10 and by February 26, they had to admit Simmons had what Steve Nash first described as “a little soreness in his back.”
Simmons eventually received an epidural and hoped he could be ready first for the late regular season, then by the playoffs. But a recurrence of his back issue during a workout following Game 3 ended that hope and by May 4, he underwent surgery.
“Terrible,” Simmons said of the sequence of events. “The thing is, you have a lot of guys in the NBA that might be like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry 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 tried to block that out. If I’m hurt, I’m hurt. I’m not trying to sit out.”
Simmons also had some strong words for Shaquille O’Neal who criticized him at the time, calling him “soft” and “a cry baby,”
“When I was dealing with everything going on, I actually messaged [Shaquille O’Neal], and he put it out, and I was like, okay,” Simmons said. “I DM’d him. I was like, ‘Why are you saying this if you don’t even know the story?’ ‘Cause he always wants to say, ‘Yo, we’re LSU brothers. You’re my brother.’ All this, that, if you’re my LSU brother, you would have reached out by now, and it’s been months since I’ve been dealing with this. You didn’t reach out once and say, ‘Hey, you okay? What’s going on?'”
The 26-year-old also relived the day he was traded to Brooklyn for James Harden.
“I literally did not care about who’s getting traded for who, I just in that moment, I actually broke down. Like, I had to have a moment by myself, because I was sitting in the office with, you know, had family around, and it was just time was going down. And then it happened. And it just was like, a shock. Because I spent six, six years in Philadelphia, like, got friends there, the night telling me like, I’m going to New York, I’m like, okay, my family’s there too, like, it was very emotional for me . All at once, I had to, like, sit down and just gather myself.”