Nets head coach Steve Nash said All-Star forward Ben Simmons “looked great” on the first day of training camp at the HSS Training Facility in Industry City on Tuesday.
Simmons, who missed the entire 2021-22 NBA season due to a combination of mental health issues and a herniated disc that ultimately required offseason surgery, completed his first official Nets practice as a full participant on Tuesday. Last season, he was a limited participant in team practice and never advanced to playing five-on-five before the season ended.
“Ben looked great. He’s looking really well,” Nash said. “He put in the time this summer and he’s continually getting better every week. It looks to me like he’s pretty close to the player we envisioned. He’s going to make a big impact for us.”
Veteran forward Markieff Morris also said that Simmons looks “great. Good, in-shape. He looked good the past couple weeks before training camp.”
Morris added Simmons looks like he was before the back surgery, noting he’s “strong as hell, too.”
Nash said the biggest hurdle for Simmons after his yearlong absence is “familiarity with his teammates.” Nash called Simmons “incredible” physically and noted his cardio level is so high that it doesn’t take him long to get in game shape.
“When he turned a corner from skill work to getting up and down, it was impressive how quickly he could manage the cardiovascular demands of playing full-court basketball,” Nash said. “For him, I think it’s just time — time with his teammates, time playing the game. It’s been a long [layoff] for him. I think just that time to get his sharpness back and an understanding with his teammates.”
Nash maintained Simmons is a position-less player and wouldn’t pencil him into any position on the floor.
“He can play point guard, he can play center,” he said. “Very versatile player.”
It’s only Day 1 of training camp, but with the weapons at his disposal, Nash is “excited by [the Nets’] potential offensively.”
And for good reason.
The Nets have seven rotation players not named Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving who can be classified as shooters and three new players at least 6-8 in T.J. Warren, Morris and Simmons, who will make his Nets debut this season.
“We’ve got lots of playmakers and shooters, so this year I think we’ve got way more depth to shoot and space the floor,” Nash said. “Last year obviously when Joe [Harris] was out for the year and Kyrie wasn’t playing, especially when Kevin got hurt, we started to run out of shooters and other teams were just sitting two, three guys in the lane. So hopefully that’s not a situation we’re gonna face this year. Optionality should be a lot better.”
Durant was complimentary of the additions GM Sean Marks made to the roster during the summer, including the addition of Royce O’Neale, whose reputation as a three-and-D wing preceded his arrival. Nash also agreed the roster filled gaps from last season.
“Yeah, I think the roster’s improved,” he said. “I think we have some great characters, which is going to be very helpful for our group. We have more shooting versatility, the size of the wing. So a lot, a lot of positives. You know, we think we’ve done a great job with the roster.”