Ben Simmons' first game action in 16 months was a showcase for the many ways he can make an impact for the Brooklyn Nets this season.
Speaking to reporters after Monday's 127-108 preseason loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, Simmons said it felt "amazing" to be back on the court after such a long layoff.
"I'm grateful to just step on that floor in the NBA," he added. "So yeah, a lot of fun out there."
Simmons' first game as a member of the Nets came against the team that he spent the first five seasons of his career with after being drafted No. 1 overall in 2016.
Things between Simmons and the Sixers fell apart after a 103-96 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in June 2021. There was a controversial moment late in the fourth quarter when Simmons opted not to take an open layup that would have tied the game and instead passed the ball to Matisse Thybulle.
Joel Embiid told reporters after the game that the moment was the "turning point" in the loss. Head coach Doc Rivers also said "I don't know" when asked if Simmons could be the point guard for a championship team.
The 76ers traded Simmons to Brooklyn prior to the trade deadline on Feb. 10 as part of a package for James Harden, though back injuries and mental health problems kept him out for the entire season.
Appearing on JJ Redick's The Old Man and the Three podcast two weeks ago (h/t Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer), Simmons spoke publicly about his exit from Philadelphia for the first time.
"I was in such a bad place where I was like, [expletive], I'm trying to get here and you guys are, like, throwing all these other things at me to where you're not helping," he said. "And that's all I wanted was help. I didn't feel like I got it from coaches, teammates—I won't say all teammates, because there's great guys on that team that did reach out and are still my friends—but I didn't feel like I got that, and it was just a tough place for me."
Now healthy for the first time in a year, Simmons will look to help the Nets compete for a championship after their disappointing 2021-22 season. The 26-year-old had six points, five assists and four rebounds in 19 minutes on Monday.
Simmons should make his regular-season debut for Brooklyn on Oct. 19 when the team hosts the New Orleans Pelicans.