Mills, Nash have Simmons’ back at Nets

Murray Wenzel |

Ben Simmons has landed his move from Phladelphia 76ers to the Brooklyn Nets.
Ben Simmons has landed his move from Phladelphia 76ers to the Brooklyn Nets.

Patty Mills says he’ll have Ben Simmons’ back in Brooklyn while Nets coach Steve Nash has outlined how they’ll help the troubled Australian star “take the jump” into his next NBA chapter.

Disgruntled two-time All-Star Simmons was traded from Philadelphia alongside guard Seth Curry and centre Andre Drummond to the Nets in exchange for 2018 MVP James Harden in the biggest move before Friday’s (AEST) trade deadline.

The 76ers, who held firm to keep fellow Australian Matisse Thybulle in Philadelphia, will also get Paul Millsap and the Nets get future draft picks.

The bitter, strung out divorce comes after the 76ers’ limp post-season exit left coach Doc Rivers and star Joel Embiid critical of the Australian, who demanded a trade and was then fined for not reporting for preseason training and skipping games.

Citing mental health issues, Simmons hasn’t suited up for the 76ers this season but will reportedly travel with the Nets to Miami on Saturday (AEDT).

He’ll team with superstar Kevin Durant and star guard Kyrie Irving, who is only allowed to play games away from the Nets’ home state as he’s unvaccinated for COVID-19.

But importantly it will also unite Simmons, who hasn’t played for Australia since 2013, with the country’s Olympic flagbearer and Tokyo bronze medal hero Mills.

The inspirational Mills has remained an ardent supporter of Simmons, hopeful he’ll join the Boomers despite skipping both the Rio and Tokyo Olympics as well as the 2019 World Cup.

Mills could prove the calming influence that snaps the ultra-talented Simmons out of his funk and primes him for a gold medal run at the Paris 2024 Games alongside emerging NBA stars Josh Giddey, Jock Landale, Josh Green, Matisse Thybulle and Dyson Daniels.

“I’ve got his back; I’ve always had his back and now I’ve got the opportunity to be with him,” said Mills, who has excelled in New York since his off-season move from San Antonio.

“I’ve had his back from afar and I wish I was with him earlier in his career.

“I’m excited to be with him … and help him in any way necessary and I know he is (excited) as well.

“It’s going to be great for both of us.”

Super athletic and a great defender, Simmons has long been panned for his hesitancy to shoot the ball, culminating in passing up a game-tying, wide-open dunk against Atlanta in the second round of last year’s play-offs.

Nets coach Steve Nash only sees upside for Simmons in Brooklyn alongside All-Stars three-point contestant Mills and fellow shooters Curry, Irving and Durant.

“It’s exciting to take on such a talented player who’s ready to enter the second stage of his career and hopefully we can help him take a jump,” Nash said.

“He can be dynamic for us in a lot of ways.”

The Nets acquired  three-time NBA scoring champion Harden from the Houston Rockets in a deal last January with the idea that he, Durant and Irving would form a Big Three.

But a championship run with them never materialised and the Nets are 2-10 since Durant sprained his left knee..

They have slipped to eighth in the eastern conference with a 29-26 record while the 76ers (32-22) are fifth in the eastern conference and are getting an MVP-worthy season out of Embiid.

“I feel like we’ve got versatile players so we’ll have to figure it out and figure out what works for us,” Durant told TNT.

“But I’m just happy that we got guys that want to be a part of this.”