Kyrie Irving wants everyone to back off Ben Simmons: ‘He hasn’t played in two years, give him a chance’

The Brooklyn Nets have gotten out to a rough 1-3 start and Ben Simmons has been largely irrelevant. Has he been terrible? No. Has he been helpful? I guess if you squint, you can see him doing a few good things as a passer/pusher and defender. But right now, for the most part, he’s just kind of out there, trying to regain his rhythm and confidence while figuring out where he best fits on the floor next to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. 

The problem is, Simmons is having to go through this process of rediscovery under an unrelenting spotlight. His every move has been and will continue to be disproportionately scrutinized, and Irving, for one, is asking for everyone (which probably mostly means the media) to just back off a little bit and give Simmons an opportunity to find his footing after such a long basketball layoff. 

Irving has a point. Ask yourself, how much have you heard about Jamal Murray’s slow start to the season as he’s going through the same process of trying to rediscover his game after a yearlong layoff? Not much, right? Simmons went 16 months without playing in an NBA game. He’s been back for four. Nobody jumps right back in after that much time off without missing a beat. 

That said, the scrutiny Simmons is facing is for good reason. The Nets gave up James Harden to get him, and they need him to be an All-Star-level player to have any chance of competing for a title. The gap between where he’s at right now and an All-Star level is vast, to say the least. 

Through four games, Simmons has amassed nearly as many fouls (18) as points (21), and the Nets are losing his minutes by 16.4 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass. 

It gets worse. When Simmons and Nic Claxton share the court, which they do often with both in the current starting lineup, the Nets are being outscored by almost 20 points per 100. Putting Simmons next to another non-shooter in Claxton exacerbates the inherent spacing issues that come with fielding Simmons on his own. 

So what do the Nets do? Play Simmons at center? What does that do to their rim protection and rebounding? Might Brooklyn make a move for a shooting big man to help stretch the floor in lineups alongside Simmons? Myles Turner fits the bill, but Indiana would likely prefer to wait and see how desperate the Lakers get as those future L.A. draft picks are far more valuable than anything Brooklyn can offer. 

This is all down-the-road stuff, but it’s not that far down the road. Irving is right, Simmons needs some time to get his game and head right, but time tends to run out pretty quickly in the NBA. The Nets are on the clock. This might be the last year Irving is even a part of the team. Some would call that likely. If he goes, Durant asking out again could well follow. The moment is right now for the Nets, and as such, waiting around for Simmons to turn back into an All-Star isn’t going to be the most forgiving process. 

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