From Deep: Can a healthy Ben Simmons bring the Brooklyn Nets together after Kevin Durant drama?

NEW YORK — When the Brooklyn Nets traded Ben Simmons, the team should become more balanced. They would no longer have the otherworldly punch they had with James Harden alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but neither would they have the same glaring flaws on defense and on the glass. Simmons’ mere presence should breathe new life into Brooklyn and take his teammates away from isolation pull-ups and towards fun things: ball movement, player movement, transition play.

But of course none of that happened. The lasting image of the 2021-22 season is Simmons sitting on the bench at Barclays Center during Game 3 of the Nets series against the Boston Celtics looking like an “I Think You Should Leave” character wearing orange pants and wearing orange sunglasses and a purple and blue jacket in a sea of ​​black and white.

The dream isn’t dead, however. After a sweep, major surgery and a superstar patch, Brooklyn is back and Simmons is healthy. His game still makes a lot of sense alongside Durant and Irving, and he is still speaks in awe of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. In a podcast with JJ Redick, he said the Nets are a “special team” and will be the champions “if we get it all together.”

Also, Simmons isn’t a plug-and-play type. He’s kind of a point guard, kind of a big, sometimes a screener, sometimes a ball handler – but definitely not a shooter. He can do just about anything defensively, but even that could change the way Brooklyn play: Why switch so often when Nash can tie Simmons to the opposition’s best player?

“I kind of have a head start because I already know how to play with Ben,” Seth Curry said on Monday’s media day. “So some guys need a little adjustment, some need to get used to it, just his distance and the way he pushes the ball and some of his playing techniques.”

Curry also said that Simmons’ presence “allows us to play in a lot of different ways.” That’s especially true when compared to last year’s Nets, who, with Simmons and Joe Harris sidelined, could only play two types of lineups: small ones that couldn’t defend and larger ones that couldn’t get off the ground. Harris is back after two ankle surgeries, and Royce O’Neale, the 3-and-D guy who came to us in a very odd line-up, complements the stars on both ends.

“On paper we should be one of the most talented teams in the league,” said Curry. “And it’s our job to come in and put it together and make it a real team, make it look good and see what we can do.”

Easier said than done, especially after Durant tried to force his way out of town and Irving couldn’t agree on a long-term contract. We’ll see if the bad vibes are just too much to overcome. On the other hand, a win changes the mood pretty quickly, and this team has the potential to do a lot of that. How delicate this situation is behind the scenes cannot be separated from the way the nets are gelling on the pitch. If they truly believe they have an opportunity to do something special, they won’t throw it away.

The conversation

Net creditor: I have to admit something: I’d rather not say too much about the networks right now. I just want to say quietly that they are the most underrated team in years, they should be the favorites to win the championship and a lot of people are going to feel stupid for being so into soap opera stuff at the expense of basketball focus . I hate soap operas!

Nets Skeptics: Are you seriously saying you wouldn’t watch a soap opera based on last year’s Nets? I would call it “The Young and the Rested”. You know, because Kyrie was pretty rested…

Net creditor: Oh boy. Uh, like I said, people overlook Brooklyn for non-basketball reasons. I expect this team to have the best offense in the league like they did two years ago and, health permitting, to be above average on defense. There’s so much shooting going on here Ben Simmons must be in a constant state of jubilation. Can you imagine a better situation for him?

Nets Skeptics: I can definitely imagine a better situation for him: Any situation where you don’t have to convince yourself he’s playing center. If he can’t play with Nic Claxton, then I don’t see him solving the Nets’ problems with defense and rebound. And against good defensive teams, ie all the teams they could face in the second round, I really don’t think he can play with Claxton.

Net creditor: Yes, absolutely – there’s no way, say, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney could start for a championship team. How stupid of me to believe in Brooklyn.

Nets Skeptics: Not the same! Yes, sure, if the Nets run Steve Kerr’s offense they can play two full non-shooters…provided Kyrie and KD are ready to run around like the Splash Brothers and Simmons is content to make a Draymond impression. At any point since KD left Golden State, did it seem like he missed Kerr’s offense? How do you think he would react if the guy he was trying to fire suggested playing that way?

Net creditor: You don’t have to play exactly like the Warriors. You just have to commit to a less isola-heavy system. It really shouldn’t be that hard to imagine – has the series of unfortunate events of the last year left you unable to remember how they played the year before? Nash had KD, Kyrie and — wait a minute — James Harden playing a cohesive style of basketball, and they were unstoppable. The staff is different now, but the idea is exactly the same.

Nets Skeptics: I’m sorry if I’m not convinced that this particular coach will bring this particular team together and play harmonious basketball. This is one of those situations where the extrajudicial BS isn’t just an extrajudicial BS.

network creditor: Do you want to at least admit that this squad is much better than last year? The Nets no longer have tens of thousands of old bigs, and Claxton looks ten times stronger than a year ago. Royce O’Neale is just the kind of wing they needed, TJ Warren could be the off-season bargain, and I’m calling it now: Edmond Sumner is the new Bruce Brown. They don’t even necessarily need anything from Cam Thomas, Kessler Edwards, or Day’Ron Sharpe this season, but I’m betting at least one of them is popping.

Nets Skeptics: What, no love for Yuta Watanabe? I’m actually more into him than most of the guys you just mentioned – all he has to do to stay in the rotation is do a decent amount of his 3s. Anyway, if the bar is “better than the team that swept in the first round,” then yes, I’ll admit this lineup erases it. But once again, this is a pretty fragile ecosystem, and I’d bet things aren’t going right. Also, they needed a bigger version of O’Neale, a sane version of Warren, and a trigger-happy version of Sumner. I don’t think the young people are ready and I don’t understand why they let Brown go.

Net creditor: I don’t see this team as so fragile. If Irving is out for a few weeks, Brooklyn still has more than enough guns. If Harris is out for a few weeks there will be no disaster. If Irving and harris and Simmons are all out at the same time, which is obviously a problem, but there isn’t a team in the NBA that’s well equipped to be without three-fifths of their starting lineup. For that reason, I disagree with Durant’s criticism of last year’s squad.

Nets Skeptics: Of course you do. And not only do I agree with Durant, I think they’re going to have the same issues. I won’t be surprised if a few weeks into the season you’re feeling genuinely smug about your Nets optimism, only for them to collapse the first time they hit some sort of adversity. And when we talk about Irving’s free hand and the possibility of another trade request from Durant, I think you’re going to whine about it.

The curiosity: Kessler Edwards

the nets have tried a few things to defuse their fundamental problem against Boston, but they just couldn’t get enough defending and shooting on the court at the same time. Edwards had brief stints in each of the first two games, then watched the rest of the series from the bench – the Celtics didn’t guard him at all and he caught quick fouls on defense.

In the regular season, however, Edwards, 22, made the most of his underused role. He’s not a reliable shooter to be called a 3-and-D guy, but he’s tall, active, athletic and ready to let it fly. In other words, there’s an obvious role for him in a team like this, provided the shot comes.

One more thing

Not only was Markieff Morris a reserve bigman Markieff Morris, teammate of Nash at the 2011-12 Phoenix Suns, Nets assistant coach Igor Kokoskov was also on that team’s coaching staff. From Deep: Can a healthy Ben Simmons bring the Brooklyn Nets together after Kevin Durant drama?

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