Canada’s Jamal Murray among returning NBA stars in preseason

Ben Simmons raced behind the defense and picked up a pass in transition which he dunked. About a minute later, he fired a cross pass to a Brooklyn Nets teammate for a 3-pointer.

These were the types of plays the Philadelphia 76ers had seen many times before.

On Monday, Simmons finally made them for another team.

Simmons played against his former club in their first NBA game since June 2021, making him one of many big names to return to basketball.

« I’m grateful to be able to walk on this floor, walk on NBA floor again, » Simmons said. « So I had a lot of fun there. »

Kawhi Leonard also returned for the Los Angeles Clippers, as did Canadian Jamal Murray for the Denver Nuggets, after they both sat out last season to recover from ACL tear surgery.

« 539 days later RIGHT NOW!! » Murray wrote on Twitter.

« Just being able to put in all of this hard work that I’ve done throughout the 14, 16 months, just being able to test that out playing against NBA talent was a great thing, » Leonard said afterward. the Clippers’ 102-97 win over Portland. . « Just being there with the guys, talking, I missed that. It was a great experience for me. »

That’s no doubt how their teams felt after expecting to be title contenders last season, but instead those hopes were dashed by injuries. Paul George also missed plenty of time for the Clippers, and Michael Porter Jr. was out for all but nine games for the Nuggets.

They all played Monday, along with Damian Lillard returning for Portland after missing the final 47 games of last season, when the Clippers and Trail Blazers met in a preseason game.

« As a fan of the game, Kawhi’s return is great for basketball, Jamal Murray’s return is great for basketball, » Nets’ Kevin Durant said. « All the guys that have been injured and able to play again, it’s a great feeling just to see them there. »

Denver Nuggets forward Jeff Green, left, hugs guard Jamal Murray as he enters the field for the first time since his injury in 2020 as the Nuggets host the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game in Denver. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

Simmons was hoping he was set to play last February after being traded to the Nets in a deal headlined by James Harden. Simmons had cited mental health reasons in seeking a trade with the 76ers after a disappointing postseason when he received the bulk of the criticism after the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference was ousted by Atlanta in the second turn.

But a herniated disc prevented him from making his late-season debut and forced him to undergo off-season surgery.

Fully cleared now, Simmons was in the starting lineup and finished with six points, five assists and four rebounds in 19 minutes. He came out weak from Philadelphia, with the last memory of the 2016 No. 1 pick’s time there, passing a layup in the stretch of the Game 7 loss to the Hawks. But he looked confident pushing the ball in transition or playmaking from the post – despite missing his only two free throws.

Simmons said he thought he would feel nervous, but he didn’t. Durant recalled feeling anxious upon his return after missing the 2019-20 season after Achilles tendon surgery.

“You wonder how your lungs are going to feel playing in an organized game because playing pickup, practicing is different from playing in a game,” Durant said. « So you just want to see where your legs are on the jump shot. So being out for a year, you feel a lot of anxiety coming back. I know I did. »

In Seattle, a host of big names made their preseason debuts to a sold-out crowd in the second preseason game between NBA teams at Emerald City since the SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City.

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Canadian Jamal Murray injures his knee in a game against the Warriors

Jamal Murray of the Kitchener Nuggets, Ont., needs a lift after sustaining a left knee injury in the 4th quarter of Monday’s game against the Warriors.

While there were Clippers and Blazers fans, the predominant color was mostly green and gold in the constant hope that one day the Sonics would return.

Fans who showed up were treated to Leonard’s first action since injuring his knee in the 2021 Western Conference Semifinals, just days before Simmons.

Leonard looked great, knocking down his first shot 15 seconds into the game and scoring 11 points in 16 minutes in the first half. John Wall also made his debut for the Clippers after the five-time All-Star didn’t play last season. Wall scored five points in 11 minutes and George added 12 points in 16 minutes. All three only played the first half.

« Long-term wounds are hard, dark »

Lillard played in the second half and had 16 points in 23 minutes.

Seattle basketball royalty turned out including Lenny Wilkens, Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Jamal Crawford, George Karl, Detlef Schrempf, Sam Perkins and many more linked to the city’s hoops history . Clippers owner Steve Ballmer grabbed the microphone before the whistleblower and thanked his hometown for coming.

« I’ve watched thousands of basketball games in Seattle – CYO, little kids, AAU, pro, varsity, etc. the crowd.

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Murray’s absence in Denver has been even longer, having torn his ACL in April 2021 and leaving him unable to try and replicate the brilliant post-season he had leading the Nuggets to the 2020 West Finals at Walt DisneyWorld.

Murray, of Kitchener, Ont., scored 10 points in 15 minutes for the Nuggets in their loss to Oklahoma City.

« These long-term injuries are tough, dark, » Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said. « These guys don’t have long windows to play basketball, they can’t play until they’re 50. It’s tough and takes a lot of commitment and hard work. Progress, especially in the beginning, is almost invisible. You can’t bear weight for a lot of time with these type of injuries. I’m definitely happy for him and wish him the best of luck staying healthy. He’s a very good player and their team will benefit from his return. »

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