For some basketball deviants, Ben Simmons is an endless fascination. A sphinx, even: very big, capable of killing you if only it could be disturbed, that unconvincing pencil smile. Simmons stuffed his Nets game diary with heavy triple singles. Earlier this month, he even approached the esoteric zero-point double-double with a performance of nine rebounds and 13 assists against the Celtics. He’ll only take a beating in the paint but he’s developed a puzzling allergy to the panel. He is surely one of the fastest 6-foot-10 athletes of all time, but often prefers an aimless ride. Each basketball game presents Ben with a new opportunity to push the boundaries of the weird.
Simmons is lucky to have landed on a roster rich enough in shots to accommodate his astonishing reluctance to put the ball in the hoop. He is still missing a big piece from an already restricted offensive repertoire. But he pulverizes the ball in transition, and he and Nic Claxton allow the Nets to pass aggressively on defense. In sporadic bursts, he’ll even attack the rim, somewhat resembling 50-year-old rookie Ben Simmons’ driveway impression, but still better than nothing. In the second half of the Nets’ game against the Sixers on Wednesday, Simmons took six shots in the paint and hit five. “He just made a choice. He just made the choice to put his head down and be aggressive for our team and we need him to do that,” Kyrie Irving said afterwards. Like everything else with Simmons, that passion comes and goes. It all works, if not well enough to warrant his contract, then at least well enough to warrant perverse attention from a random observer in the Nets’ experience.
We are free to enjoy this mystery from a distance. But the Nets head coach is, tragically, paid to figure it out. Barely three months after taking office, Jacque Vaughn has faced the peccadilloes of Ben Simmons head-on and seems a little tired. The Nets, still missing Kevin Durant due to an MCL sprain, have lost six of their last eight games. Thursday night’s humiliation at the hands of the conference’s worst Pistons seemed to weigh heavily on Vaughn in the postgame press. Simmons finished with zero points, one rebound and seven assists, and missed most of the second half with knee pain. With that absence, Vaughn let his gaze to speak :
Asked more generally about Simmons’ back-to-back availability, Vaughn barely bothered to code his language:
The goal, in my eyes, I will say this, is that everyone plays every game, and does what is necessary to be ready to play every game. There are a number of minutes each individual has played in Philadelphia. Some played tied tonight. The preparation it takes for that, just give credit to the guys who were ready to play, ready to play, did what was necessary to get their bodies ready to play.
It’s not quite Doc Rivers flaccid face”I don’t know the answer to that“, but we will eventually get to that phase.
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