The Brooklyn Nets lost to the Boston Celtics 109-98 in a game that saw one of the top two players on each team sit out due to injury. Kevin Durant of the Nets and Jaylen Brown of the Celtics didn’t suit up. A good game still, but the talk afterwards was predictably about how former NBA All-Star Ben Simmons didn’t score — especially notable in the absence of Durant.
Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal discussed the situation with Ernie Johnson after the game. The situation? Despite rebounding well and dishing __ assists, the stat that stands out is Simmons’ total field goal attempts — three. He took three shots, making none, going scoreless for the second time this season and the second time in his career.
Kenny Smith insists there’s a player Simmons should emulate — it’s late-career Lakers-version Russell Westbrook who, despite poor shooting from the outside, still plays with his characteristic aggression in getting to the basket on penetration. Simmons? Not so much. Why?
Barkley has an answer. Barkley says Simmons is “afraid” to get fouled while shooting or going to the hoop, because then he’d have to try to make free throws. That’s understandably not something Simmons wants to do, since he’s shooting 41% from the stripe.
Shaquille O’Neal — who knows from missed free throws — seemed genuinely curious in following up on Barkley’s point. “Do you really think that’s what it is with Ben?” Shaq asked, sounding sympathetic and adding, “That’s what it seems like but he hasn’t really addressed it.”