Australian NBA star Ben Simmons has had successful back surgery and will begin rehab in three weeks, aiming to make his Nets debut in the 2022-23 pre-season.
The first thing Ben Simmons needs to do is, whoever is running public relations for him, fire their ass.
Then he needs to decide whether he wants to be an NBA player.
Just when you thought the Simmons saga would finally be over, he aborted his latest comeback when Brooklyn needed him most and was nowhere to be seen when the Nets were swept at home in game four of their first-round playoff series against Boston.
The rebukes have been swift and brutal and, worst of all for Simmons, justified.
Reggie Miller’s stinging Twitter post saying Simmons had “ZERO competitive fire” and that he needs to man up received more than 138,000 likes, a further indication that public sentiment is heavily against the 25-year-old Australian.
The Nets have reportedly demanded answers from Simmons’ camp as to how he could be so close to a comeback from his back problem and then pull out the day before the crucial match when everything was on the line for the franchise.
Brooklyn coach Steve Nash was not going to throw him under the bus and was diplomatic in his response to the issue.
“I think Ben has addressed that there is a mental component with what he’s going through. But how much and where he’s at with that is not for me to speak about. But as far as an organisation we’re really pushing to support Ben in any way we can and to help him improve physically and get back on the court and the mental side of that is part and parcel. That’s not, they’re not separate, they’re not something that we don’t want to deal with,” he said.
“We want to help if he needs help in any aspect of his life and his game. He’s a cornerstone so we want to help him feel great, play great and become a part of this team.”
You get the impression that a dose of tough love is needed for Simmons. Someone to get on his fragile back, figuratively that is, like Spurs veteran coach Gregg Popovich to show him how lucky he is to be in the NBA, a No.1 draft pick with all the athletic tools to compete with the very best.
The Nets have to back Simmons as his trade value is so low right now. Even though the player they traded to get him, James Harden, looks to be in a rapid state of decline judging by his recent form during Philadelphia’s playoff campaign, Brooklyn could try to deal Simmons in the off-season.
It would be hard to find too many interested teams that would take on the three-time All-Star’s three-year $US113 million deal given his recent histrionics.
And the recent no-show revives the impossible to ignore narrative that this is who Simmons is. He barely looked interested during his brief stint with LSU which was put down at the time to his belief that NBA hopefuls shouldn’t have to play a year in the US College system before entering the draft. Fair enough, the collegiate system is a rort.
But then there’s the continuing issue of indicating he wants to suit up for the Boomers and then when game time comes around, there’s always another reason why he can’t play.
He was supposedly working on his game last off-season after his ill-fated Philadelphia finals campaign while the Boomers chased their first Olympic medal. There was little evidence to suggest Simmons did too much work on finding an elusive jumpshot and plenty to indicate he was taking an extended break as he swanned around Wimbledon.
Linking with LeBron James’ agency, Klutch Sports, is great to attract headlines but they don’t seem to be too concerned about burning bridges for their clients.
Anthony Davis had a similar image problem after joining Klutch, turning up to a New Orleans game in the last match before he was traded wearing a That’s All Folks shirt, then claiming he didn’t pick it: “It was hanging for me already when I put my clothes on,” he said in 2019 in one of the more bone-headed explanations for bone-headedness in recent NBA history, before adding he did not know who had chosen his wardrobe.
There should be plenty of time for Simmons to rehabilitate his image and resuscitate his career. But does he even want to do that? It all seems too hard.
He needs to stay away from the social media feeds, throw away the supposedly fashionable outfits and get in the gym over the next few months to be in the best shape, physically and mentally for next season.
Will he do it? Does he care? Only he knows but at least for the rest of us, we no longer have to put up with the “will he or won’t he play” sideshow which has been an absolute embarrassment.
Australian basketball culture is built on hard work and not hiding behind excuses – it wouldn’t surprise if the Boomers don’t bother extending the olive branch to Simmons again until he beats down their door to say he wants to play.
Golden State polished off MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets 102-98 on Thursday to wrap up their first-round series 4-1.
With Draymond Green and Steph Curry back to match fitness after lengthy injury layoffs, Klay Thompson regaining his mojo to drain bombs after his two-year absence and Jordan Poole becoming a legit third Splash Brother, they are on course for their first title since 2018.
Phoenix are the top seed in the Western Conference but they have struggled to overcome the play-in latecomers New Orleans, leading 3-2, and have star guard Devin Booker in a tricky spot after he suffered a hamstring strain.
Whoever wins between Memphis and Minnesota – the Grizzlies hold a 3-2 lead – will be cannon fodder for the Warriors.
The Suns look like they’re rushing Booker back for game six – that’s risky. If he returns without doing further damage and gets back to his regular-season form, they could match it with the Warriors, otherwise it looks like more playoff heartache for Chris Paul. But if it lingers or he is ruled out again, Phoenix may not even get past likely second-round opponents Dallas.
In the Eastern Conference, there was no team more impressive than Boston in the way they swept the Nets, making Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving look like mortals with their suffocating defence.
Whoever wins the second-round stoush between the Celtics and Milwaukee, who are likely to be without All-Star swingman Khris Middleton, will probably come out of the East ahead of Miami or the winner of the Philadelphia-Toronto series.
Friday: Suns at Pelicans, 9.30am AEST
New Orleans have been the most fun team to watch in the playoffs – if you don’t know what the “No way, Jose” is as yet, get on the YouTube machine to see undrafted guard Jose Alvarado’s sneaky steal manoeuvre which has got Chris Paul all hot and bothered. Phoenix lead 3-2 heading into game six.
Saturday: Grizzlies at Timberwolves, 11am AEST
This series has been all over the place. Minnesota have been great at puking up leads while gravity is no concern for Ja Morant as he attacks the rim. It will be as entertaining as it is unpredictable. Memphis lead 3-2 heading into game six.
There could be no games, there could be three, depending on whether the Pelicans, Raptors or Jazz can force a game seven on Friday. If Toronto win at home to set up a series decider in Philadelphia, they would be on the verge of history as no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.