The Philadelphia 76ers sat a few veterans in their preseason opener against the Brooklyn Nets. Considering Joel Embiid and James Harden don't have much to prove, the Sixers gave them a night off after a week-long training camp in Charleston, South Carolina.
On the other hand, Brooklyn didn't want to take advantage of the same luxury, although they employ proven All-Stars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Ben Simmons.
Since the star duo never shared the court as one before, Nets head coach Steve Nash wanted to take the time to get them on the floor together so they could work on building chemistry.
Prior to tip-off, Nash revealed the Nets would play Simmons, Durant, and Irving for no more than 20 minutes against the Sixers on Monday, and he stuck to his word.
Durant and Irving appeared on the court for exactly 18 minutes and 42 seconds. Simmons led the pack with a little over 19 minutes played.
Considering it was Simmons' first real game of basketball since the 76ers' 2021 playoff run, which ended in the second round with a Game 7 loss against the Atlanta Hawks, the three-time All-Star showed a bit of rust in the opening minutes of action.
After his first-half showing, Simmons' night concluded. After the game, Kyrie Irving reacted to the former Sixer's Brooklyn debut, revealing that he sent a halftime message to Simmons to instill confidence in him.
Irving's Message to Simmons
“Anytime somebody comes back it’s gonna take some time. What our responsibility is as teammates for him is just to make the game easier. I was telling him at halftime when you’re playing with some high-level players, despite what you heard, we’re going to make the game easy for you. He’s gonna love playing with us. He’s gonna love getting up and down the floor with us. For him to be out there for his first day and for us to experience it with him, it’s something we can remember for the rest of the season as something that we got through. Since day one, highly-anticipated and glad it went his way tonight on some easy baskets. He made some great plays but obviously he was ways to go before he gets to feeling like his true self.”
In a little under 20 minutes on the floor, Simmons went 3-6 from the field. He finished his night with six points, five assists, and four rebounds while turning the ball over twice.
Considering he was on the floor for Tyrese Maxey and the Sixers' starting lineup's dominant run early on, Simmons exited the game as a minus-10 and didn't have the opportunity to get back out on the floor to repair that stat.
Simmons didn't have his sharpest performance, but Brooklyn feels inspired by what he brings to the table. Since Simmons is surrounded by two stars, he's viewed as the third option with the Nets, unlike his time in Philly, when he played sidekick to Joel Embiid.
At times, Simmons struggled to embrace that second star role in Philadelphia as his offensive limitations held him back. As Irving points out, Simmons won't have to step out of his comfort zone as he's surrounded by scorers that complement his playmaking strength.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for All76ers, a Sports Illustrated channel. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.