Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons is expected to be a full participant at training camp when the team starts next week. Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn told reporters on Monday that Simmons, who played in just 42 games last season, has been cleared for 5-on-5 workouts with no restrictions.
"Pretty simple that way which is good for me to say, and I think that fits into an exciting time for me to have this group together," Vaughn said. "No restrictions at the beginning of the year -- get to form an identity together, get to form some relationships at the beginning of the year, a style of play, so really looking forward to the challenge and getting to training camp because of that."
This is a positive sign not just for the Nets, but for Simmons who has had a rocky last couple of seasons dating back to the end of his tenure with the Philadelphia 76ers. Simmons requested a trade from the Sixers in 2021. While waiting for that request to be fulfilled, he decided not to report to practices or games, essentially missing the entirety of the 2021-22 season before being sent to Brooklyn in February 2022.
Though Simmons was getting a fresh start with the Nets last season, things didn't go as expected, as the three-time All-Star looked like a shell of his former All-Defensive self. At one point in the season before being shut down due to a back injury, he was coming off the bench. Simmons averaged just shy of seven points, a career low for the 27-year-old.
Another positive that hints that this season could be different for Simmons compared to last year, is his relationship with Vaughn. There were times last season when Vaughn would make comments postgame that seemed to be directed at Simmons, like the time hewhen Simmons left the game due to knee soreness. But now, Vaughn is saying that he and Simmons' relationship is on sturdier ground.
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"I think at that time I was at a place where as a coach I'm always gonna have a standard, and that standard is of what I expect guys on the team to do, how we want them to play and ask them to do things for the sake of the team," Vaughn said. "I think Ben's and I's relationship is in such a good place right now because we've been able to talk through that moment of our lives where I expected him to do things that I've come to understand that physically he wasn't able to do.
"I think at that time, you kept hearing me talk about force, and those things and how I wanted him to play. And so now, a revelation where I've seen the work he's put in, where he was at, some of those things have been revealed to me. I think that's why our relationship is at a really good place right now, but the things I'm going to ask him to do going forward, I think he can physically do now. So it does put us in a position where I can use multiple lineups, put different people around him so we can have success on both ends of the floor."
If Simmons is 100% healthy, that's great news for the Nets. Despite losing two major stars last season in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving due to trades, Brooklyn has an enticing roster centered around Mikal Bridges whose star began to rise after being sent to the Nets in the Durant deal. If Simmons looks more like the version we saw in Philadelphia, where he was a lockdown defender, a threat getting downhill and an elite facilitator, then Brooklyn should be in the mix again for a playoff spot.