The Brooklyn Nets don’t shy away from drama, but it has kept them from contending for a championship this season.
First, Kyrie Irving’s refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine limited him to just 29 games this year. Then, James Harden expressed his unhappiness in Brooklyn and sat out contests before receiving a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers.
But it didn’t stop there.
After receiving Ben Simmons for Harden, the former has yet to play a single game for the Nets. He sat out in Philly due to a trade request and his mental health, but he has since dealt with a back issue in Brooklyn.
It looked like he would finally make his season debut in Game 4 of the Nets’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics, especially since his team is trailing 3-0. However, Simmons has reportedly told Brooklyn that he has had more back soreness, and he will now miss the game.
The 2017-18 Rookie of the Year has, of course, caught a lot of flak for this. The last time we saw Simmons on the basketball court was when he choked away a trip to the conference finals for the 76ers. Now, he’s dodging an elimination game, despite getting exactly what he wanted with his trade out of Philadelphia.
NBA legend Reggie Miller was among those to criticize Simmons. He used one tweet to absolutely blast the 25-year-old.
Reggie Miller blasted Ben Simmons
The news of Simmons missing Game 4 broke on the evening of April 24, a little over 24 hours before the contest between the Nets and Celtics in which Boston can complete a series sweep.
So, given that – combined with his refusal to play for the 76ers earlier this season amid his trade request – many have wondered whether Simmons is afraid to make his Nets debut in a high-stakes situation. Some, specifically Reggie Miller, are even questioning his competitiveness.
“Cmon MAN!!! Out for Game 4 when it was rumored you were going to make your debut. This dude has ZERO competitive [fire],” Miller tweeted. “As small a chance as the Nets have to come back in this series, you still have KD and Kyrie, all you need is to win ONE game and take it from there.. #ManUp”
Miller played during an era in which everyone played through injuries. Many players still do today (just ask Joel Embiid, who is playing with a torn ligament in his thumb), but some look for any reason to stay off the court.
Simmons’ reputation has crumbled since last year’s conference semifinals in which he averaged 6.3 points on 4.7 shot attempts in Games 5–7. This latest incident isn’t doing him any favors.
The Nets still have Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant
On paper, the Nets should still be OK. They are down 3-0 but have two of the best players in the world in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
However, the Celtics have defended them tremendously this series.
Durant is averaging 22.0 points through three games on an atrocious 36.5% shooting. He’s also recording 5.7 turnovers per game. Irving had 39 points on 60% shooting in Game 1, but the seven-time All-Star scored an average of just 13.0 points in Games 2 and 3. He also shot 33.0% from the field in those games and missed all of his three-point attempts.
Considering Boston’s excellence, the Nets essentially had a tiny chance of completing the comeback with Ben Simmons. Without him, it seems almost impossible.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference