The Brooklyn Nets held a players-only meeting on Oct. 29 to discuss point guard Ben Simmons’ performance this season, sources with direct knowledge of those meetings, but who are unauthorized to speak about it, tell The Athletic. Here’s what you need to know:
- The team’s level of exasperation toward Simmons bubbled to the surface when they met after a loss to the Indiana Pacers.
- Veteran forward Markieff Morris spoke in front of the team about how they need Simmons to succeed and that he has to respond when he deals with adversity on the court.
- Simmons appeared to take Morris’ words in stride and was responsive and attentive throughout, sources said.
The Nets have dealt with months of turmoil in the organization, including a coaching change and a still ongoing off-court controversy with star guard Kyrie Irving that resulted in his indefinite suspension, which has now reached seven games.
On Nov. 1, Brooklyn parted ways with coach Steve Nash after a 2-5 start to the season. The Nets named assistant Jacque Vaughn as interim head coach, and The Athletic reported that the franchise planned to hire suspended Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka. The reported plan for Brooklyn to hire Udoka drew criticism because Boston suspended the coach in September for the 2022-23 season due to his intimate relationship with a female member of the Celtics organization, The Athletic reported.
The Nets changed course from their initial plan to hire Udoka and promoted Vaughn to head coach on Nov. 9.
On the court, the Nets have struggled to a 6-9 record. Simmons made his return from back surgery in May to play in the early part of this season but recently missed eight days to have his left knee drained because of fluid.
After beginning the season as the starting point guard, Simmons has been in the backup center spot in his last four games. It marks the first time he has come off the bench in his seven NBA seasons. He was a late scratch in Sunday’s loss to the Lakers, with the team citing left knee soreness as the reason for his absence.
This early season stretch has been merely the latest setback in two years of injuries and health problems for Simmons.
What Simmons is saying
In a discussion with The Athletic, Simmons acknowledged the criticism that he knows is coming his way.
“You’re obviously not gonna be happy when anybody’s out,” Simmons said. “But for me, I’ve been dealing with the knee since the start of the season. It’s been swollen. I had PRP (injections). I had blood drained a couple times. So it’s not a made up thing, you know? It’s a real thing.
“I get (the skepticism), but I think the one thing with me is that I’m a competitor. I want to win and play. So I’m gonna do what I can to get out there.”
(Photo: Wendell Cruz / USA Today)