The Nets unofficially kicked off the 2023-24 season on Monday night with a 129-126 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in their preseason opener.
Though the results didn’t quite go their way, there certainly were a ton of positives for head coach Jacque Vaughn to takeaway from the inaugural contest, including the impressive play of point guard Ben Simmons.
Simmons, of course, was limited to just 42 games last season and saw himself shutdown in late March due to knee and back injuries. After rehabbing all offseason, though, he’s facing no restrictions heading into this year.
The former top overall pick says he’s feeling the best he has both physically and mentally. He’s been flying around the court during 5-on-5’s in practice and has been drawing nothing but praise from his teammates and coaches.
In our first glimpse at the rejuvenated and newly confident Simmons Monday night, he certainly impressed in limited action.
Simmons played just 12 minutes but he was able to get off to a fast start, draining his first three shots and working his way to the free throw line. He later added a dunk and contested lay-in against Lakers big man Anthony Davis for an and-one.
Vaughn decided he had seen enough from his starters at the halftime break, so he turned to his reserves down the stretch.
Simmons finished with an even 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, a team-high three assists, a rebound, and a steal. Most importantly, the 27-year-old was active on both ends of the court and looked fully healthy for the first time in a long time.
Simmons had the confidence and comfortability to take the ball to the hoop and attack the rim. Though it was just one preseason game, it certainly was a positive start for him and the Nets.
If he can stay healthy and play like this all season, the former All-Star who averaged just 6.9 points and 6.3 rebounds last season, seems destined for a bounceback.
Simmons and the Nets will continue their preseason slate with a home matchup against 2023 NBA MVP Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday, Oct. 16 at 7:30 p.m.