Ben Simmons is once again frustrating his team.
No, you haven't time traveled back to mid- to late 2021. This is reportedly happening right now, in Nov. 2022, on the Brooklyn Nets (not the Philadelphia 76ers, which is how we know we haven't time traveled). According to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic, the organization has been both frustrated and concerned about Simmons over the last few weeks.
According to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation, the frustration surrounding Simmons had been building in recent weeks within the organization. The coaching staff and players have been concerned about his availability and level of play, with some questioning his passion for the game, those sources said. But even when he did play, Simmons’ struggles in his first nine games this season were part of the Nets frustration as well.
Questions about Simmons' passion for the game are not new. They surfaced when he was with the Sixers, and got a big boost after Game 7 of the 2020-2021 Eastern Conference Finals, in which Simmons passed up a wide open layup that Joel Embiid tagged as the turning point of the game. The Sixers lost, and Simmons would never have a good relationship with the team again. During the 2021-2022 season, he would ask for a trade, sit out most of the season citing mental health issues, and eventually get traded to the Nets for James Harden.
Teammate reportedly calls out Simmons at team meeting
Simmons has also been dealing with some injuries: a sore knee that he's had drained several times, which has kept him out of a number of games recently, and recurrent back problems, which he's been dealing with since his Sixers days. Those issues obviously limit him, and could be the source of some of the reported concerns from inside the org.
But Simmons' teammates were not happy with what they were seeing from him on the court. According to The Athletic, one of his teammates, Markieff Morris, essentially called out Simmons for his effort on the court.
The level of exasperation toward Simmons bubbled to the surface on Oct. 29 when the Nets held a players-only meeting following a loss to the Pacers at Barclays Center. Sources with direct knowledge of the meeting, but who were granted anonymity so that they could speak freely say that in that meeting, Markieff Morris — a veteran leader on these Nets — spoke up in front of all of his teammates about how they need Simmons to succeed and that he has to respond when he deals with adversity on the court. Those sources all described a meeting where Simmons appeared to take Morris’ words in stride and was responsive and attentive throughout.
Simmons and his issues have turned into a minor storyline on the Nets lately. Kyrie Irving is still suspended for his public support of an antisemitic film. Head coach Steve Nash was fired. Ime Udoka, the Boston Celtics head coach who is suspended for the season due to an inappropriate relationship with a co-worker, was considered to replace him. After that caused a firestorm, the Nets promoted Jacque Vaughn to head coach instead.
The Nets have bigger fish to fry than Simmons right now, but it won't be that way forever. They need him to remember how to be the elite player he once was, especially with Irving suspended and his future with the team unknown.