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NEW YORK — Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash said he was “proud of” Ben Simmons for the way the talented swingman bounced back in Friday night’s 109-105 win over the Toronto Raptors after a poor showing in the Nets’ season opener.
“A step up for Ben,” Nash said after seeing Simmons score six points, grab 10 rebounds, dish out eight assists and block two shots in 32 minutes. “From the jump he was more aggressive. He got in the paint, every time he gets in the paint he causes problems. … He’s starting to show the player he can be, and I still think he’s got a ways to go, so really proud of him. He shook off the first night, and I thought he was much more aggressive in an important game for us.”
Simmons struggled in Wednesday’s loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, scoring just four points to go with five assists and five rebounds and fouling out in 23 minutes. Simmons says he has been getting a consistent message from Nash for a while now.
“Just attack,” Simmons said. “Just be me. It’s easy to say, but to go and do it, it’s tough. But that’s on me. Keep pushing myself.”
Simmons’ teammates have repeatedly stood up for him publicly as he continues to find his rhythm after missing almost a year and a half from the NBA after waiting on a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers last season and then dealing with offseason back surgery. The Nets know they can be a completely different team when Simmons plays at a high level and is aggressive on the floor.
“He just got downhill — he just played free,” Durant said of Simmons. “He didn’t think too much. I think we’re all a little anxious to start playing, start the season last game, so we had a better start to the game. … He impacted the game as much as he could tonight. … We need that from everybody, but I think we’re all a little [more] relaxed, even the coaches.”
Simmons noted that his performance was “a little better” and said he remains confident his game will come back around over time.
“I didn’t get fouled out, which is good,” Simmons said. “Less turnovers, so just keep building.”