- Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.
NEW YORK — Coach Steve Nash says he doesn’t care if Ben Simmons “ever shoots a jump shot” for the Brooklyn Nets because of the versatility and unique skill set that he brings to the team.
“Very unique,” Nash said of Simmons after the second full practice of training camp on Wednesday. “That’s what makes Ben great. That’s why I don’t care if he ever shoots a jump shot for the Brooklyn Nets. He’s welcome to, but that is not what makes him special and not what we need. He’s a great complement to our team, and he’s an incredible basketball player because of his versatility.”
Simmons, who struggled to find consistency in his jump shot throughout his time with the Philadelphia 76ers, is trying to stay focused on a fresh beginning after missing all of last season while waiting for a trade out of Philadelphia and then dealing with rehab from back surgery as well as ongoing mental health issues.
Simmons said he felt “amazing” after the team’s second official practice.
“I’m getting used to the up-and-down play,” Simmons said. “I feel great. It’s good to be out here with these guys.”
Nash and Simmons are particularly excited about his expected fit with fellow Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
“I think they’ll have a certain element of cohesion out of the gates,” Nash said of the trio. “Because they’re all really good basketball players, but hopefully it’s something that evolves. And they can continue to find ways to make each other better. I think that’s the beauty, that they actually fit really well together, but it may take time.
“But out of the gates, they’re still three great basketball players who I think are excited to play together and will make things happen immediately. But let’s hope that there’s a constant growth as well.”
Simmons said they just need some more time to learn each other’s respective games.
“You’re playing with some great NBA players, some of the greatest,” Simmons said of Durant and Irving. “So, for me, it’s just playing alongside them, figuring out where they want their shots, how they move, different spots on the floor where I need to be. It’s just timing.”
As Nash figures out how he wants to set up his rotation, the coach reiterated that he would be comfortable using Simmons in a center role when the matchup calls for it.
“If he’s the ‘lone big,’ that’s a role we would definitely play him at,” Nash said. “But he’s also our playmaker and point guard.”
It’s a position and a role that Simmons isn’t shying away from heading into the Nets’ preseason opener at home against the Sixers on Monday.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Simmons said. “I’ll play wherever the team needs me to play, whatever helps. I can guard 1 to 5, play 1 to 5. I think it’s just one of those things where we have so many different talents on this team, you could put me anywhere to help get points, get stops, whatever it is. … I love playing the 5, I don’t mind.”
In other news, Nash said the hope is that guard Seth Curry, who continues to recover from a lingering ankle injury, will be able to play in the Nets’ final preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Oct. 14. Veteran swingman T.J. Warren also will not be ready to start the season as he continues to recover from a foot injury that has kept him out for most of the past two seasons.
“I think we’re going to assess again in November, but he’s doing great,” Nash said. “He’s building up. We knew this going in. And we also don’t want to take big risks with T.J. because he’s been out for two years. So it’s a process that we want to be very confident in and make a firm organization not to rush him.”
The good news for Nash and the Nets is that after waiting since February for Simmons to be up and running again, he appears to be in good spirits both physically and mentally.
“I think Ben’s just an incredible playmaker,” Nash said. “Size, speed, ability, unselfishness, he’s always looking to get guys open. He’s a great screener. He [has] terrific vision. With his size and speed, he’s able to push the ball in transition and also get into gaps, so a great fit for Kevin and Ky to try and make the game a little bit easier for them.”
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