Joe Paige | Sports Editor
The Brooklyn Nets season opener against the New Orleans Pelicans at Barclays Center showcased two players coming back from significant time off looking to improve and elevate their teams to the next level in Ben Simmons and Zion Williamson, it was a tight game with Zion and his Pelicans team holding the lead most of the game. The first time All-Star finished with 25 points on 50% shooting, one board shy of 10 rebounds, multiple highlights with all of his points made exclusively in the paint, and the win. The Pelicans certainly made a statement tonight, they're a team nobody should sleep on, Zion and Ingram already look like a dangerously lethal in-and-out offensive combo and they have solid depth to back them up, they’ll definitely be looking to make some serious noise in the western conference this season.
On the other hand, Ben Simmons only raised eyebrows with his performance, this Nets team could be in serious trouble if Ben Simmons doesn’t figure it out soon. He looked like the same player that we saw exit that elimination game against the hawks in the 2021 playoffs. It’s fair not to jump to conclusions so quickly as it really is just the first game of the season, Simmons had a few questionable calls that effected his game and would eventually foul him out in the fourth quarter, but what’s deeply concerning is that his mentality just simply has not changed since the last time we saw him on the court. It’s the one thing that he still has yet to address.
It’s not that he needs to start chucking three point shots, that ship sailed by his rookie year and by year 3 he already garnered enough individual success as a rising star in the league he didn’t think he needed to change anything. But when it comes down to aggressively making plays to force pressure on opposing defenses, he’s had plenty of nights like this in Philly even prior to the meltdown in Atlanta, he just simply has not made any changes to his offensive skill set and still appears to be too hesitant when making decisions going downhill. His only points in this game were off of lobs converted on broken plays, he didn’t even really attempt an actual shot the whole game, he threw down the first bucket for his team and then wouldn’t attempt a shot until the start of the fourth quarter.
As fans we’re curious to see what he looks like after so much time off but more importantly Brooklyn is expecting that he can be a player that can actively contribute to their championship aspirations, even though it’s only the first game of the season, it’s been a year and the last time we saw him on the court his absence cost his team a playoff series. In this season opener against a formidable New Orleans team Simmons looked exactly like the player that ended his tenure in Philadelphia, lacking aggression, unable to process obvious scoring opportunities, tentative, and exudes fear rather than confidence when the ball is in his hands. Ben Simmons continues to make it frustratingly challenging to insist that he is capable of applying anything different to his game in order to become the aggressive offensive lead guard that we hope he could be one day, and the player that Brooklyn needs in order to go deep in the playoffs.