After swinging from injured to ineffective to absent in a season-and-a-half, Ben Simmons acknowledged he owes it to his Nets and their fans to get back to his old form.
And he conspicuously said that’ll be easier to do with everybody on the team finally pulling together in the same direction, focused more on winning than themselves.
Make of that what you will.
“I’d say [the hardest part was] not be able to do your job to the fullest. I never have excuses, I never tried to say anything about different things going on. But I was dealing with an injury at the time, so I did what I could in the moment,” Simmons said. “And I owe it to everybody, the fans and everybody, to get back to where I need to be. That’s what I did this summer to get back.”
After Simmons came to Brooklyn at the 2022 trade deadline at the cost of former MVP James Harden, he didn’t play a second that season, citing mental health issues and back problems.
He had surgery to repair a herniated disk that May and played just 42 games last season, many of them poorly.
But multiple experts told The Post that his full recovery would take 18 months, and Simmons confirmed as much.
That should put the former All-Star on pace to be 100 percent by November — a month into the season — and he’s been working out in Miami, impressing Nets players and brass who’ve been down to see him.
“[I feel] amazing. I think this is the first summer where I’ve really had to just get healthy and get back on track to where I need to be,” Simmons said. “I’m super excited to be on Brooklyn, obviously. And then we’ve got a great, great team, a great coach in Jacque Vaughn. So I’m excited. I think this year is gonna be a completely different year to the past couple.”
Simmons was at HSS Training Center, speaking with FOX-5 at his mentorship event and youth basketball clinic put on in conjunction with RISE.
It’s an eight-week leadership event, and it was noteworthy that Simmons praised the leadership of these current Nets for being more conducive to success than the leadership of the failed Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving superteam.
Asked what has him most excited about creating for players such as Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, he said simply that everybody is pulling in the same direction now.
“I think just playing with guys who are just easy to play with, that just have one goal and that’s to win. I don’t think guys have too many individual goals,” Simmons said. “I think the team is going to come first and I think the culture that Jacque Vaughn, [general manager] Sean Marks are building now has been incredible.”
Many would contend that is shade being thrown at both Durant and Irving.
But it should be noted that — at least in the case of Durant — the Suns star maintains great relationships with the Nets ownership and front office and is well liked.
Goran Dragic, reared in the Heat team ethos, had revealed upon his departure that playing in Brooklyn had been tough for him because the emphasis was too much on individual success and not enough on the collective.
Bridges himself acknowledged he was different than some of the departed players because he doesn’t cause drama.
For his part, Simmons is the only current Net to have played in an All-Star Game.
He was named to three, playing point guard for the Sixers.
Now the Australian said he’s gotten assurances from Vaughn that that’s where he’ll be playing this upcoming season.
“That’s what I know. As much as people would try to put me [at power forward]. Everyone’s a GM in their head: I’m a point guard,” Simmons said. “So I think with the team we have I think it’s constructed well for us to have a good run.
“Get ready for a great year. I think it’s going to be exciting. We’re going to have a lot of fun and get back to Brooklyn basketball.”
The Post was the first to report Monday that Noah Eagle — the 25-year-old son of Emmy-winning Ian Eagle — will join YES broadcasts beginning Dec. 2 when the Nets host the Magic at Barclays Center. It gives cover for the elder Eagle and Ryan Rucco’s increasing national commitments.