Ben Simmons looks and sounds like he's in a very good place with the Brooklyn Nets.
Sitting in the padded courtside seats of Milwaukee's Fiserv Forum during shootaround on Wednesday, the 26-year-old swingman says, after nearly a year and a half away from an NBA floor, he is embracing his new role alongside established stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
The Nets are banking on it -- and have supported the three-time All-Star as he has dealt with his mental health after a tumultuous exit from the Philadelphia 76ers and offseason back surgery.
Following Wednesday's preseason win against the Bucks -- a game in which Simmons contributed seven points, eight rebounds and 10 assists -- Irving couldn't hide his excitement about the progression he continues to see from his teammate and how important the impact a healthy Simmons will have on the roster.
"It's positive news," Irving told ESPN after that win. "Positive news to have [Simmons] be out there, just playing his game. And we don't want him thinking about too much other than just playing with that same no fear mentality and we're going up to people's chest this year."
As Simmons prepares for his comeback season, he sat down with ESPN to discuss how he's feeling mentally and physically, his upcoming return to Philadelphia in November and what it would mean to help lead the Nets back to prominence after so much time away from the game.
[Editor's note: Answers have been slightly edited for clarity and brevity.]
How would you put into words how much you missed the game?
Simmons: You know, the first game I came back and played against the Sixers? The feeling of being on the court was so surreal it just felt like that's what I was missing, in the sense of my life. Being on that floor ... was just like, 'This is where I'm supposed to be. This is where I feel comfortable -- on the court.' So it's a blessing just to be back here and moving and playing against the best players in the world.