Kyrie Irving urges Ben Simmons to play ‘smarter’ after Australian was knocked out on his highly anticipated Brooklyn Nets debut – as coach Steve Nash says ‘rusty’ star has ‘a lot on his plate’
Kyrie Irving has urged Ben Simmons to “play smarter” after the Australian NBA star was insulted at his Brooklyn Nets (AEDT) debut on Thursday.
Simmons finished with just four points, five rebounds and five assists to his name when the Nets lost their 130-108 season opener at home to the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Australian took only three shots, missed two free throws and went foul early in the fourth quarter. Irving, who finished six-for-19 from the field with 15 points, said he had spoken with Simmons about the need to avoid foul play.
Ben Simmons’ Brooklyn Nets debut ended early on Thursday (AEDT) after being knocked out early in the fourth quarter in a 130-108 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans
“We told him in the locker room that he is a valuable piece for us and that we need him there and that a foul out is not an option,” the seven-time All-Star told the Associated Press.
“Playing aggressively is something we want him to do, but we also want him to play smart.”
Nets coach Steve Nash said Simmons was “rusty” but willing to give him time to settle in.
“The man hasn’t played in over a year,” he said.
Simmons was traded to the Nets in February but missed all of last season due to a combination of mental health issues and back problems
“This is a trial for Ben. He has glimpsed the player we know he is and can be, but it’s not easy.
“We’re here to support him, we’re here to push him, coach him and try to get him to a place where he can play at a level he’s played at in the past.
‘There is a lot on his plate’
“As long as he continues to build his confidence and play hard and play with violence, we’re fine with him making mistakes as he grows into this.”
Kyrie Irving has urged Simmons to avoid foul play to help the Nets this season
But Steve Nash admitted Simmons needed time to get back up to speed after a year out
Before losing to the Pelicans, Simmons last played in an NBA game on June 20 last year, when the Philadelphia 76ers lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Atlanta Hawks.
The Sixers unceremoniously traded the 26-year-old to the Nets in February, but he missed the entire season last season due to mental health issues and back problems that required surgery.
On Thursday, he had a scorching time against Zion Williamson, who himself made his comeback after knocking out the entire season last season with a broken right foot.
The Australian had a rough night against Pelicans star Zion Williamson (right)
Williamson returned after missing the entire season last season with a broken foot, finishing with 25 points and nine rebounds in a dominant display
The Pelicans star finished with 25 points and nine rebounds and effortlessly dominated Simmons around the rim.
“It takes time,” Simmons said.
“After back surgery and not playing for a year, there are little things your mind might tell you to do, but your body doesn’t want to do that.”
Boomers captain Patty Mills finished with 16 points for the Nets, while fellow Aussie Dyson Daniels provided two assists as he made his NBA debut for the Pelicans.