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After the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets engaged in a blockbuster trade to swap stars James Harden and Ben Simmons, the Sixers and the Nets didn’t face each other until the following month.

At the time, Harden suited up for the Sixers to go against his former squad. On the other hand, Simmons remained off the floor as he was battling a back injury.

Simmons missed more than just the one game against his former team last season. As he battled constant back pain, the three-time All-Star wasn’t able to trot out onto the court before the 2021-2022 regular season concluded.

Although there was talk about Simmons making his Nets debut during the 2022 playoffs, the star guard missed Brooklyn’s first-round series against the Boston Celtics, which resulted in a sweep.

After undergoing back surgery and working on improving his physical and mental health throughout the 2022 offseason, Simmons finally made his Brooklyn debut on Monday night for the Nets’ preseason opener. Ironically, the matchup was against his former team.

Simmons didn’t shy away from the moment. As he took the floor for just under 20 minutes, the three-time All-Star played with high energy and scored nine points while dishing out five assists and grabbing four rebounds.

To no surprise, Simmons downplayed the circumstances by telling Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer that he doesn’t have any hard feelings toward the Sixers. Therefore, he was treating Monday’s preseason debut as just another game. 

After picking up his first set of minutes since he last played with the 76ers in the 2021 NBA playoffs, Simmons felt grateful for the opportunity to play basketball again after last year’s saga, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN.

"I'm grateful just to be able to step on that floor," Simmons said. "Step on an NBA floor again. I had a lot of fun out there.”

While Simmons showed some understandable rust at times, he seemed to be moving up and down the floor well after a 470-day break between games. Prior to Monday, Simmons last played in an NBA game in June 2021 when the Sixers lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Atlanta Hawks.

"That's the one thing, I thought I was going to be nervous," Simmons said. "But I wasn't nervous. I was excited."

Following the game, Simmons made it clear on the broadcast that his Nets debut has yet to come, as he doesn’t count preseason as the true beginning to his Nets era.

But the fact that Simmons managed to get on the floor finally while facing his former team allowed the veteran to check off two boxes in the same night. Now, his next challenge comes on November 22, when the Nets pay a visit to Philadelphia for the first time this year.

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for All76ers, a Sports Illustrated channel. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.