Ben Simmons has vowed to get past his injury woes and dominate for the Brooklyn Nets this upcoming season, with the point guard opening up on his rehab, status and relationship with head coach Jacque Vaughn ahead of tip off in October.
The 27-year-old is sitting out of Australia’s World Cup campaign in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia this summer to focus on his health (both physical and mental) and his goal to play most games over the span of the 2023-24 season. He also wants to keep working on his improving rapport with Vaughn, which he claims started off ‘terrible.’
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
‘For me to come back and dominate people will be great,’ Simmons told Andscape – a sports and pop culture website owned and operated by ESPN and formerly known as The Undefeated. ‘I don’t intend to come back the same player I was last [season], because that’s not even close to where I am.
‘I get excited because I’m like ”Damn, I would [expletive] on the player I was last year.” But I know where I was at last year, so it’s easy to say that. But it’s just fun to go and do the thing that you live when you’re out there.’
Ben Simmons claims to be healthy and is looking forward to dominate for Brooklyn this season
Simmons was only involved in 42 out of 82 regular season games with the Nets last season, starting 33 times. He barely played with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who were both traded away in February, since coming to Brooklyn from Philadelphia for James Harden exactly a year earlier.
Simmons said he was on the cusp of returning from an extended injury layoff that had sidelined him for most of the 2021-2022 season before the start of playoffs but that he aggravated his back, leading to surgery for a herniated disk in May 2022.
‘Rehab was a little different because it wasn’t with people that I’ve been with before, so it kind of felt a little bit new,’ said Simmons, referring to the Nets’ medical staff.
‘It was just one of those things where they didn’t really know my body, so they didn’t know what I really needed at the time.’
The three-time All-Star certainly makes a point, considering that he played through pain last season, as a full recovery from microdiscectomy surgery for a herniated L-4 disk ranges from two weeks to 18 months or longer, according to Spine-Health.com.
Simmons, 27, experienced long-term back pain during both the 2021-22 and 2023-24 season
And looking back at his injury hell, Simmons acknowledges that he was ill advised to rush back to the court for the Nets last season.
‘Yeah definitely,’ he said on whether he thought his hurried comeback was a mistake. ‘I was definitely on the floor when I shouldn’t have been on the floor at the start of the season.
‘But I also don’t think I was in place not to play. That played into it too, but at the end of the day, my body is my career, so I do need it to be healthy. So, I made decisions based on just trying to please the people. I don’t think that was right, personally, for me.’
Simmons said hiring Bernie Lee as his new agent helped him get over his injury woes and that they played a negative part in his relationship with Vaughn when the latter replaced Steve Nash as the Nets head coach in November 2022.
‘I feel like our relationship, to start, was terrible,’ said Simmons, who added he and Vaughn rarely spoke to each when Vaughn was still Nash’s assistant. ‘I’m not playing. I don’t really have a relationship with [Vaughn] like that because he wasn’t the head coach, because there’s a little distance, or a little gap between assistants and injured players sometimes.
‘And I got mad at him because there was no communication. There’s none of that. So, [I’m] kind of a little frustrated with Coach. I know Coach is frustrated with me.
Simmons revealed that he and Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn weren’t tight at first last year
‘One day, people are telling him [I’m] good, and next, it’s not. From the start, I wasn’t good. So, it was a tough situation for him and myself. But now having the right plan and team around me, now he’s seen, ”OK, he is dedicated. He wants to work. He wants to win, and he’s willing to do what he needs to do to be on the court.”
‘So now, we’re in a great place. I speak to him every other day.’
Vaughn went down to Miami to see Simmons workout on three occasions over the course of this summer, according to The New York Post and assured the first overall pick of the 2016 draft that he’ll be playing point guard this upcoming season.
Simmons, who has been playing in two-on-two scrimmages over the last two weeks, said he will be ready by the Nets’ first game of the 2023-24 season against Cleveland in October and that he will be in far better shape than he was a year ago.
‘Definitely. Yeah,’ Simmons said. ‘The version I’m at now, if I was playing against myself from last season, I would kill him. That’s how I feel.’
Teammate Cam Johnson previously said Simmons is ready to go and in a ‘good place.’