Shaq reflects on when Ben was being called the ‘next LeBron,’ thinks Nets star may still be dealing with mental roadblocks

Peter Dewey
3 Min Read

Los Angeles Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal believes that Brooklyn Nets star Ben Simmons’ struggles may be due to something going on mentally. Simmons has battled such roadblocks before, and O’Neal isn’t sure that he is completely over them after a slow start this season.

Simmons is struggling mightily early on in the 2022-23 season for the Nets, and he’s missed the team’s last two games with a knee injury. So far this season, Simmons is averaging just 6.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game while shooting 44.1 percent from the field.

“Maybe he still has something going on up here,” O’Neal said, pointing to his head. “At some point, he’s going to have to address that and fix that. My advice is just go play.

“Just go play. You can’t go from averaging 18 points to being hailed as the next LeBron [James] and then having a little stink in the playoffs and then all of the sudden your game just — think it’s two games now where in the second half you don’t take a shot?

“Nah. Hell nah. That’s not right.”

Simmons, a three-time All-Star, sat out the 2021-22 season. When he was still on the Philadelphia 76ers prior to the James Harden trade, Simmons cited mental health issues as part of the reason as to why he was sitting out.

O’Neal may be right that Simmons isn’t completely over that obstacle, as the former Rookie of the Year has not been aggressive so far this season. After averaging over 10.0 shots per game in every season of his NBA career, Simmons is taking just 5.7 shots per game this season.

That has led to a decrease in his scoring production, and the Nets need him to step up if they want to turn things around after a slow start to the 2022-23 campaign.

A former No. 1 overall pick, Simmons once drew comparisons to James for his unique skill set at his size. However, Simmons has never produced as a scorer like James has in his NBA career.

It may be unfair to compare anyone to James, since he is arguably the greatest player in NBA history. Still, Simmons has taken a major step back from his All-Star self so far this season.

The Nets are currently just 2-6 on the season, and the team recently suspended guard Kyrie Irving for at least the next five games.

Kyrie Irving Brooklyn Nets

Once Simmons can return to the floor from his knee injury, the team will surely be looking for him to take on a bigger role on offense. Hopefully, he is able to find the skills that made him one of the best young players in the NBA before he sat out the 2021-22 season.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.