A clear message from the Nets coach as Ben Simmons shows his best and worst in a fiery Philly thriller

A clear message from the Nets coach as Ben Simmons shows his best and worst in a fiery Philly thriller

Ben Simmons was benched for the final nine minutes of the Brooklyn Nets’ 137-133 loss to the 76ers as the Australian was booed relentlessly by the Philadelphia crowd.

Simmons finished with 12 points, five rebounds and five assists and caught fire in the third quarter as the 26-year-old began driving aggressively toward the rim.

The Australian scored all 12 points in that third period, otherwise he asserted himself offensively in a scoreless first half.

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Fri, January 27

Friday, January 27

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It should have ESPN Kendrick Perkins said at halftime that Simmons was “dreading the moment.”

“While Tyrese Maxey was the X-Factor, Ben was not a factor,” Perkins said.

“I’ll change his name to Ben Perkins, he had the same stat lines as me. It’s amazing how (he) has now gone from an all-NBA player to an enforcer, that’s what he was. Three fouls.

“I’m beginning to think he’s dreading the moment.

It was no better illustrated than with one minute remaining in the first quarter when Simmons missed an opportunity on the rim and instead passed to teammate Yuta Watanabe.

“You see a lack of aggression from Ben Simmons, and it’s such a stark contrast to watch him,” Burke said.

“There are times when he completely disappears on the offensive end of the floor. He averaged about 10 runs per game when he became a three-time All-Star in Philly. [Now] it’s about 3.5 discs per game and it’s hard to watch.

“He became a role player, an outstanding defensive player, but a role player.

Simmons showed exactly how valuable he can be in the third quarter when he and teammate Seth Curry kept the Nets in the game in minutes without Kyrie Irving on the floor.

Irving told reporters after the game that Brooklyn looked “very good” when Simmons was at his aggressive best, as he was in the third quarter.

“We’re seeing flashes,” Irving said.

“We’re all seeing flashes and we just want him to keep it going.

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The same goes for Nets coach Vaughn, who said Simmons “showed the ability to play with more power” in the quarter, but also needs to find a way to do it more consistently.

Vaughn benched Simmons for the final nine minutes of the game and told reporters the decision had more to do with Brooklyn being down and needing more shooting options.

But the Nets coach also touched on what he thought of Simmons’ performance as a whole and whether he gave the Australian any specific advice on how to improve.

“It’s the news I talked about before the game,” he said.

“We’re going to make every guy, including Ben, value every possession and play hard every possession. Just because you play the first half doesn’t mean you’ll play the second half.

“We really want to get to the point where your teammate is depending on you and depending on you to do your job, every single possession. Ben showed the ability to play with more power in the second half and it paid off, which is what we need.”

Vaughn also indicated that it’s less about telling Simmons what to do and more about giving the 26-year-old room to think about his game and change his mindset on the field in time.

“You become what you think about,” Vaughn said, sending a clear message to Simmons.

“So if you’re thinking about being aggressive, you’re going to be aggressive. If you think about being a good teammate, you will be a good teammate. If you think about competing and playing hard, you will. You become what you think about.”

Thursday’s game was the first time Simmons shared the court with Joel Embiid and James Harden since the sensational trade that sent him to Brooklyn in the first place.

The Australian was booed relentlessly by Sixers fans every time he touched the ball, and the crowd certainly had all eyes on Simmons as he guarded Embiid at various times throughout the game.

“[The crowd] it was like a party,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said after the game.

“It was hilarious. That’s when I turned to the coaches and said, ‘This is a boxing crowd tonight.’ They want to see them drop the basketball, turn around and take it out.”

Fans would likely boo his every breath if they could, such is the city’s hatred for Simmons, who requested a trade last season amid a deteriorating relationship with Embiid and was traded to the Nets for Harden.

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Embiid, who returned to the lineup after sitting out their last game with leg soreness, was largely outplayed by Nic Claxton, who had a career-high 25 points on 11-for-12 shooting and added 11 rebounds and two blocks.

The Nets trailed by 17 in the third quarter and still trailed 116-102 in the fourth before an 18-4 blitz tied the score. But they couldn’t get over the hump and immediately came back 8-2.

Irving’s bucket cut the Sixers’ lead to 133-131 with 45 seconds left, but Harden followed and essentially iced it.

Curry, who came with Simmons in the Harden deal, led the Nets with 32 points on 7-10 shooting from beyond the arc. Irving added 30 points and 10 assists.

Maxey had 27 points and Embiid had 26 on six-for-18 shooting for the Sixers (31-16). Harden finished with 23 points — eight in the fourth quarter — and seven assists.

— s New York Post

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