It’s been a tough start for Ben Simmons in a Brooklyn Nets uniform.
Brooklyn fell to 1-2 on the season Monday night, losing to the Memphis Grizzlies 134-124, with Simmons fouling out for the second time in the first three games of the season.
Simmons attempted just five shots from the field, scoring seven points while adding eight assists and fouling out with 3:52 left in the game.
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Memphis point guard Ja Morant rolled the ball up the court late in the fourth quarter as he allowed time to run off the clock. After finally picking the ball up past half court, Simmons aggressively began playing defense, making contact with Morant and was called for his sixth and final foul of the game by referee J.T. Orr.
“I just saw the play,” Simmons said after the game, according to ESPN. “It wasn't a foul. [Orr] called it a foul, made a mistake, it is what it is… it's really frustrating… it's not a foul, but it was bull—. It's frustrating because it's late game, fourth quarter, it's a physical, close game. It's the NBA. It's not college. It's not high school. Some people are going to get hit, some people bleed; it's basketball.”
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“There was no explanation for that call,” Simmons said when asked if he received an explanation for the foul. “[Orr] didn't have anything to say. Same as the technical foul. He said because Ja had a tech, he had to give me a tech because I said something. It wasn't malicious. It wasn't at the referee. I thought it was just a part of basketball. People have emotions. I didn't cuss at him. I didn't call him anything. I just said it was a bull—- call, which it was, and f—, let me get out of here. I just don't want to get fined.”
Kevin Durant, who finished the game with 37 points on 14-20 shooting from the field, agreed with Simmons’ assessment, saying that he should not have been called for a foul on the play.
“I didn't think that one was a foul, but it is what it is,” Durant said. “Ben's a veteran in this league, so he trusts himself, we trust him and it's just about bouncing back next game.”
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Last week, Simmons made his Nets debut, scoring just four points in 23 minutes played, fouling out early in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Simmons, who sat out the entire 2021-2022 season amid a trade request in Philadelphia and back issues in Brooklyn, attempted just three shots and went 0-2 from the free-throw line.
After the opening game loss, Nets teammate Kyrie Irving was supportive of Simmons, but said he needed to play smarter in order to be available later in games.
“He just has to get reps and minutes,” Irving told reporters after the game. “I think it’s as simple as that. We told him in the locker room he is a valuable piece for us, and we need him out there. And fouling out is not an option. Playing aggressive is something we want him to do, but we also want to play smart.”
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“It’s not the time to, again, revert back to old habits,” he continued. “There were a few times where we lost games last year and I could just feel our spirit just down. And when we lose games, obviously there are things that we want to correct, but we don’t want to lose this way. Which is beating ourselves up and not doing the things that we know that the game deserves.”
The Nets play the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, Oct. 26.