NBA

While pundits and some fans plan to move Ben Simmons, he and Nets are happy

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There’s no shortage of trade proposals out there that would send Ben Simmons hither and thither, his “designated rookie extension” contract seen by many pundits as an albatross preventing the Nets from being in the mix for Donovan Mitchell or Bam Adebayo or Andrew Wiggins, etc. Each of these three and about a dozen other young stars are on such offers and NBA rules prevent teams from having two on their roster.

So the suggestion is that the Nets find a way to get rid of the 25-year-old so they can sign another young star as part of a Kevin Durant deal. Bobby Marks, the Nets’ former assistant general manager, offered such a four-team trade on Wednesday. Without going into too many details, the Nets would send Simmons and Kevin Durant in exchange for Mitchell, Mikal Bridges and Myles Turner. Brooklyn would not get a first round in the messy trade. Fans didn’t like this aspect of the deal.

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Aside from the specifics of Bobby Marks’ idea, Sean Marks seems uninterested in sending Simmons… and no urgency either. Nets ownership and management have set the bar high for KD returns and appear willing to wait, perhaps hoping for a change of course from Durant whose four-year, $198 million contract began July 1.

As Brian Lewis wrote last week, with Durant and Kyrie Irving rumored, the Nets don’t seem interested in having simultaneous trade talks on their three biggest stars. In his story, Lewis brought up the possibility of the Nets “taking Simmons away,” then dismissed it.

Privately, Nets sources have suggested the latter option is unlikely. And when asked if Simmons had been assured that he was part of the Nets’ long-term plans and that he would not be traded, a source close to the young All-Star simply told the Post that ” Ben is good.”

Indeed, it looks like Simmons and the Nets are “good.” Simmons was in Las Vegas this week with newly acquired Royce O’Neale (apparently Donovan Mitchell’s best friend on the Jazz until he was traded to Brooklyn) and Nic Claxton who was doing double duty in Las Vegas, as as a teammate cheering on his buddies and as a Nets union representative in town for NBPA meetings.

Claxton declined to speak to reporters and was escorted to and from his seat by Nets director of security Fred Galloway. But reporters present said he appeared to be in good spirits.

On Wednesday, the Nets also tweeted a video of Simmons at Summer League, including audio from the three-time All-Star.

Specifically, Simmons told a team camera:

“The offseason has been great. Great chance to recover, rehabilitation from surgery, and then we really lock ourselves in the gym. Block out all the noise and get ready for next season. So I’m excited,” Simmons said who had not spoken publicly since the end of the season.

The Nets marketing team seems to portray Simmons as loyal and true in light of all the “noise” surrounding KD and Kyrie.

The video also included a quick hug between Simmons and Sean Marks who told people he loved Simmons from when he spotted the Aussie “at a young age”. Of course things can change, and of course Simmons has to readjust both physically and mentally after his missed season which, as Lewis also wrote, deeply reduced his trading value.

That said, Simmons appears to be underrated by the Nets’ pundits and fan base. They weren’t seen during the regular season and many criticized him for not playing a minute in the Nets’ postseason sweep at the hands of the Celtics. Some still feel that way even after having back surgery. Such is fickle fandom.

Simmons, when physically and mentally fit, has more accolades than most that some would like to see the Nets acquire in Simmons’ place. Simmons and Mitchell are two months apart and both were three-time All-Stars, but Simmons was an All-NBA once and an All-Defensive team twice, which Mitchell failed to achieve. Adebayo was once an All-Star.

It will take time — and success on the field — for Simmons to restore his reputation, but the Nets seem confident he can and will be a great contributor. So far, they seem more than willing to take the risk on Simmons’ future. Plus, he’s the least of their problems right now.

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