Kyrie Irving is happy to be Ben Simmons’ bodyguard, but says he’s a “big kid, he can handle it” as the pair begin their new NBA partnership with the Brooklyn Nets.
Simmons missed all of last season after being traded from the Philadelphia 76ers due to physical and mental health issues.
But after “working on himself” and undergoing back surgery, he is set to line up in the Oct. 20 season opener on a team featuring Kevin Durant, Irving and Australian compatriot Patty Mills.
That game would end a turbulent offseason for the high-profile club, with the unvaccinated Irving returning after missing much of the season and Durant also requesting a failed trade.
“It’s not often you get to see Ha. [211cm] He does what a man does,” Melbourne-born Irving said of Simon.
“What I’ve been able to observe… is his determination and perseverance… no matter what greatness looks like to him, he wants it.
“When you’re in an environment where you can support it, it helps ease the journey.
“That’s the role I want to play on this team…guard him when needed but know he’s a big kid, he can handle it.”
When Mills asked reporters if Simmons was ready to play one-on-one, Simmons replied, “I’m ready to play one-on-five.”
“Rome wasn’t built in a day … hopefully the ability to create this bond between us with the adversity ahead,” Mills said of the franchise’s impressive past 12 months.
Simmons said he learned from the job “the good, the bad and the ugly.”
“I just supported him from afar,” he said.
“I’m really looking forward to hitting the hardwood with him.”
Simmons said he is mentally ready to return to the NBA.
“Everybody has dark days – I’m there when you can talk it through and work your way up to where you want to be,” he said.
“I don’t care about narrative, or that people say certain things.
“I’m going to go out there. [and] Play on, I’ll let them all do the talking… Expectations, that’s up to you. [in the media].”
Meanwhile, Boomers veteran Joe Ingles is eyeing an NBA comeback with the Milwaukee Bucks after suffering a serious knee injury and then being traded from the Utah Jazz.
“I try and make it as frustrating as possible,” Nigel said of his trademark defense.
“There’s definitely been some ups and downs, maybe failures that I don’t think I’ve ever had, but that’s part of the process.
“Hopefully my injuries are behind me now and I can go forward and help this team.”