Fresh off a 31-point thrashing by the Sacramento Kings that dropped them to 6-9 on the season, the Brooklyn Nets somehow devolved into even more chaos.
On Wednesday morning, Sam Amick and Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that “frustration surrounding Simmons had been building in recent weeks” within the Nets. “The coaching staff and players have been concerned about his availability and level of play, with some questioning his passion for the game,” they added.
Huh. You don’t say.
That wasn’t all, though. The Nets held a players-only meeting after a late October loss to the Indiana Pacers dropped them to 1-5 on the season, during which Markieff Morris reportedly addressed Simmons’ lackluster start to the season.
Morris “spoke up in front of all of his teammates about how they need Simmons to succeed and that he has to respond when he deals with adversity on the court,” Amick and Charania reported. “Those sources all described a meeting where Simmons appeared to take Morris’ words in stride and was responsive and attentive throughout.”
Mhm. Sounds just like him.
Simmons has missed five of the Nets’ past nine games because of a knee injury. He’s come off the bench for his past four appearances, and he’s averaging only 5.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists on the season. He did score a season-high 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 20 minutes off the bench in Tuesday’s blowout loss to the Nets, though.
While the Nets go through their five stages of grief with Simmons, star forward Kevin Durant didn’t hold back in an interview with Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes that published Wednesday.
When asked what prompted his trade request over the offseason, Durant told Haynes it was “about ball.”
“I went to them and was like, ‘Yo, I don’t like how we are preparing,’” he said. “I don’t like shootarounds. I like practices. I need more. I want to work on more s—t. Hold me accountable. Get on my ass in film if that’s going to help you get on everybody else’s head. I want to do more closeouts. I want to work on more shell drills at practice.’”
That seems to explain why he reportedly called for the Nets to fire both then-head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks over the summer. Marks remains in place, but the Nets fired Nash seven games into the season. They replaced him with interim head coach Jacque Vaughn, who has gone 4-4 during his brief tenure, and who had the “interim” tag removed after the Nets’ ill-fated attempt to hire suspended Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka went belly-up. (What an absolute disasterclass of a franchise.)
Durant told Haynes that he’s been having “fun grinding” with both Simmons and Kyrie Irving in and out of the Nets’ lineup to start the season.
“It’s been fun trying to leverage myself to help everybody else get better,” he said. “I’m learning the game more and seeing all types of crazy defenses every night. I never know how a team is going to guard me. This is all helping me mentally as a player to see things a little slower, playing a little slower.”
However, he didn’t hold back when discussing the upside of the Nets in their current form.
“Look at our starting lineup,” he told Haynes. “Edmond Sumner, Royce O’Neale, Joe Harris, [Nic] Claxton and me. It’s not disrespect, but what are you expecting from that group? You expect us to win because I’m out there. So if you’re watching from that lens, you’re expecting us to play well because No. 7 is out there.”
Cue Simmons’ next trade request in 3… 2…
Help may soon be on the way for the Nets, though. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Irving is “nearing completion on the process needed for a return to play” and could return as soon as Sunday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Granted, that means he’ll also presumably have to meet with the media. What could go wrong?
The Nets and the Sixers have their first of four meetings on Tuesday. After seeing how Domantas Sabonis disposed of Claxton on Tuesday, Embiid could be in store for a repeat of his historic performance against the Utah Jazz.