Brooklyn Nets power forward Ben Simmons faced his first team on the court on Monday evening in a 127-108 preseason loss against the Philadelphia 76ers, and Philly head coach Doc Rivers was asked on ESPN's NBA Today what it was like seeing him play on a different team.
"I really didn't watch him; I was watching our guys, to be honest," he said (1:05 mark). "Having said that, listen, I want him to do well, but he's no longer a Sixer, so I've completely moved on from him. ... I want the kid to do well. He did well for me, as you said. He was a Defensive Player of the Year candidate and was having a great year. But I have to worry about my own team right now and that's what I'm focused on.
Simmons' contentious divorce with the Sixers is well-documented at this point. He struggled immensely in the team's Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the Atlanta Hawks in the 2020-21 season, infamously passing up a wide-open dunk in the fourth quarter of the decisive Game 7 loss.
After the game, both Joel Embiid and Rivers made comments regarding Simmons that raised some eyebrows:
Simmons would eventually go on to request a trade and stayed away from the team—save for a very short-lived and contentious return to practice—into the regular season. He was eventually traded to the Nets ahead of the trade deadline last season in the deal that netted the Sixers James Harden.
Simmons then didn't play for the Nets as he dealt with a back injury, marking Monday night as the first time he officially faced his former team on the court. He posted six points, five assists and four rebounds in 19 minutes.
"I'm grateful just to be able to step on that floor," Simmons told reporters after the game. "Step on an NBA floor again. I had a lot of fun out there."
"That's the one thing, I thought I was going to be nervous," he added. "But I wasn't nervous. I was excited."
It was the first time Simmons has played in a game with players like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and a transitional period is inevitable. The Sixers find themselves in a somewhat similar situation, with a slew of new role players added this offseason, including P.J. Tucker, De'Anthony Melton, Danuel House and Montrezl Harrell, among others, though the core of Embiid, Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris returns.
And it's those potential and natural growing pains for the Sixers retooled roster that Rivers was focused on Monday night.