The dissension the Nets experienced over the past two seasons will slowly fade, as their main storyline as they open the new season is can Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons lead the team to an NBA championship? The Nets hosted the New Orleans Pelicans last night at the Barclays Center to begin what should be an interesting 82-game regular season journey.
They’ll be back home tomorrow to play the Toronto Raptors, then go on the road to meet the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday and Milwaukee Bucks next Wednesday. Key to Brooklyn’s success and their ability to make it to and succeed in the postseason even with Durant and Irving, is Simmons. His return after missing all of last season due to a back injury and mental health issues will be heavily scrutinized.
Before last night, Simmons’ last game was in June of 2021 when his former team, the Philadelphia 76ers, were eliminated from the playoffs in a major upset by the Atlanta Hawks. Simmons started in all four of the Nets’ preseason games, going up against the Sixers, Miami Heat, Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves in preparation for his comeback.
“We’ll be patient with Ben because he is an incredibly talented and unique player, but he’s not going to be at his best in the short term,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “He’s just got to continue to slog through this period of returning to play and getting his confidence, timing and rhythm back.”
The Nets were 44-38 last season and finished as the seventh seed in the East. This season, with Durant, Irving and Simmons apparently all on the same page, most projections have them as a top 4 seed in the conference and a favorite to win the title. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be one of the top title contenders if their three best players remain in a good physical and mental space.