MINNEAPOLIS — Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash couldn’t help but chuckle as Ben Simmons walked over to the bench after fouling out in just 13 minutes during a 112-102 preseason win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.
“I said ‘you might as well go straight to the bike and get some conditioning,'” Nash said after the game. “I don’t think he was ready for the joke.”
Simmons, who finished with two points, six assists and two rebounds, was in disbelief over several of the calls — especially the last one with 10:26 left in the third quarter. It was the quickest he had ever fouled out in any professional game, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Several of Simmons’ teammates laughed on the bench as he walked over, still pleading his case to anyone who would listen.
“Just talking to the refs, obviously adjusting to — one night you’re playing against the [Milwaukee] Bucks and playing a physical game and then you’re playing the Wolves and it’s not that physical. So you’re not able to get away with a lot of things but overall as a team I think we played great, we moved the ball. We’re finding our identity.”
Simmons had a long conversation with official Nick Buchert in the first half, which at one point included teammate Kyrie Irving, as the pair ended up laughing by the end of the talk at what they felt was a quick whistle.
“Obviously, I probably wouldn’t be laughing if it was the regular season but it’s the preseason,” Simmons said.
“Honestly, they’re getting used to seeing certain things on the floor too,” Simmons said. “But I don’t mind, I might as well use the fouls. I got six of them so I’m trying to be physical and show my presence out there for my teammates because I feel like that’s going to be a big responsibility of mine, bringing that energy, that physicality, and setting the tone for our team.”
Irving said that while he had seen a teammate foul out faster before when he was younger, he had never seen someone on one of his NBA teams foul out so quickly.
“Yeah, that was the first time [here],” Irving said. “But it’s preseason. He knows he was not necessarily as locked in as he could have been, I think some of the calls could have gone either way. But it’s a learning experience for him and us as a team. And we were just joking about it throughout the game, but obviously we wanted him to get some minutes tonight so we could really grow. We still did, but obviously we would have liked to have Ben out there.”
Despite the quick exit, Simmons made some positive strides over the last week and helped the Nets find their offensive rhythm heading into Wednesday night’s regular season opener against the New Orleans Pelicans. Nash noted that he felt Simmons was “really starting to turn a corner the last couple games. “After a tumultuous summer for the organization, Irving believes the Nets are heading in a positive direction going into the regular season.
“I would sum it up in just a simple word: Patient,” Irving said of the preseason. “We came in, a lot of external noise, had to quiet that down, and then focus in on us exemplifying to one another why we deserve to win every single night. It starts first internally and then in the team environment.
“Just being willing to be uncomfortable, we’ve heard [Markieff Morris] say that plenty of times. But I think it just goes further than just being uncomfortable, it’s just being willing to be flexible, to adapt on the fly, and learn things that will help us in the long run right now.”