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Three Things to Know: Is Ben Simmons ready to accept role with Nets?

76ers star Ben Simmons

ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 18: Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on during the game against the Atlanta Hawks during Round 2, Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs on June 18, 2021 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.

1) Is Ben Simmons ready to accept role with Nets?

Ben Simmons wanted a fresh start, a new home out from under the pressures, expectations, and perceived lack of confidence in him in Philadelphia.

He got it in Brooklyn.

However, the pressure and expectations in New York are even higher — this is a title or bust team with Kevin Durant. And Simmons is not a seamless fit with the Nets.

Unless he is ready to accept a new role.

Simmons is an All-Star player who brings elite defense and passing skills to the table — skills that should help the Nets win a lot of regular season games.

It’s in the playoffs where the gaping hole in his game ends up in the spotlight. It is not simply that Simmons is not a good outside shooter, but he is not willing to shoot — less than 8% of his shot attempts have been from outside 10 feet the last three seasons, and last year in the playoffs it was 2.2%. The deeper Simmons and his team go in the playoffs, the better the opponent and their ability to exploit that weakness. We’ve all seen the results.

There is a way for Simmons to fit — accept more of a Draymond Green style role.

There have been front office people/coaches around the league talking about getting Simmons into that kind of role for years. Nobody could break it down better than Mo Dakhil did at Bleacher Report (read his whole story).

Simmons is no Green. Not as far as the accolades, and not anywhere near the reputation. But the player archetype is similarly unique. The skill sets are both rare. The elite combination of passing and defense can make life easy both on star teammates and crucial role guys night in and night out.

Durant thrived in the Warriors system before coming to the Nets. Irving works well both on the ball and coming off screens.

Specifically, it’s about Simmons accepting a role as a screen setter and short roll man.
Running an Irving-Simmons high pick-and-roll, with Durant on one side, a big in the dunker spot, and either [Patty] Mills or [Seth] Curry on the other side should create sufficient spacing. It’s a similar alignment that made the Warriors’ offense so difficult to defend.

It’s easy to envision how this all comes together. Simmons will be the defender on the opponent’s best perimeter player on one end of the court, where he can rebound and push the ball in transition (his strength).

In the halfcourt, he turns the shot creation over to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. He can set a pick for either of them, when the other team blitzes or doubles Irving, he gets the ball back to Simmons on the short roll at the free throw line, then Simmons has options: Kick the ball to Seth Curry or Patty Mills in the corners, drive the lane and draw the defense, then either finish at the rim or throw the lob to a player coming out of the dunker’s spot. It’s that secondary playmaking from Green that makes the Warriors offense so elite — throw everything at stopping Stephen Curry and the defense pays the price.

Will Simmons accept that role?

He reportedly wants to be a point guard with the ball in his hands in the halfcourt. While Steve Nash may find spots for that, there is no way the Nets should take the ball out of Durant’s hands. Or Irving’s. Both are better creators because of the threat to score.

Simmons has a skill set that can enhance what Durant and Irving bring to the table and allow more of a team game than the “you take a turn then I take a turn” we saw at points from the Harden-era Nets. (To be fair, in the limited minutes that big three were together, the ball movement was impressive.) This can work and work well.

But it all comes down to Simmons embracing this new role.

2) Is it time to take Celtics seriously as a playoff threat?

The Boston Celtics have won eight in a row and 10-of-11. Over their last 10 games, the Celtics’ have a league-best defensive rating of 95.7 (10 per 100 better than the Thunder in second). The trade deadline addition of Derrick White makes Boston even better and more switchable defensively, especially in the clutch at the end of games.

That’s a recipe for winning a lot of playoff games. Is it time to take the Celtics seriously as a playoff threat?

They looked the part in the second half of a win over the shorthanded Hawks early on Sunday. It helped that Jayson Tatum scored 38.

In an Eastern Conference where no one team has taken charge and shown to be the team to beat (unlike the Suns out West), Boston and their combination of defense and elite wing play could make a deep run. Maybe. We’re not that far removed from a Celtics team this season that couldn’t seem to find its identity for new coach Ime Udoka. Now they have found it, and for the past couple of weeks they have looked like a serious postseason threat.

3) Clippers lose Norman Powell to foot fracture

In his Los Angeles debut against the Bucks, you could see how much the Clippers needed a player like Norman Powell in the lineup — a guy who can shoot the three but also put the ball on the floor, get into the lane and get fouled. He scored 28 in that game and has averaged 21 points a night through his first three games.

Now the Clippers have lost Powell, too. He suffered a “fractured medial sesamoid bone in his left foot,” the team announced Sunday, adding the treatment is non-surgical. Still, he will be out most of the regular season, if not longer.

The Clippers have 24 games remaining. Maybe he is back for the postseason.

But for the Clippers it’s all about next season, when Powell and the rest of the role players should fit perfectly around a healthy Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Los Angeles is not going to rush him back.

Highlight of the night: LeBron loved the Super Bowl halftime show

The Dr. Dre inspired, Snoop Dogg-filled hip-hop Super Bowl halftime show — complete with Eminem taking a knee — was a hit at the Super Bowl party I was at. And it made me want to race off to Tams Burgers after the game (I have eaten at the Long Beach location more times than I can count).

LeBron James loved it, too.

And there is video proof of how much LeBron loved it.

Yesterday’s scores:

Boston 105, Atlanta 95
Minnesota 129, Indiana 120
Los Angeles Rams 23, Cincinnati Bengals 20