The Brooklyn Nets suffered a surprising 130-122 loss to the lowly Detroit Pistons on Thursday night, and have now lost six of their last eight games to fall to 29-19 on the season, which puts them in a tie with the Cleveland Cavaliers for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
Head coach Jacque Vaughn seemed to be fed up after the game when discussing his players' preparation and performance.
"The expectations, what we always talk about, was to win this basketball game," Vaughn said. "The people who suited up, the people who played, the people who stepped on the floor had an opportunity to impact the basketball game for their teammates. That's the objective every single time we step on the floor. We were expecting to win tonight, that's the goal.
"Whether it's a back-to-back -- I remember four in five nights, three in four, four in six, doesn't matter. you do what's necessary, whether that's taking care of your body, the mental part of it, the work that goes on between days off, days off, between games, game day, to get yourself in a position to win. That's why we do this thing."
While Vaughn didn't single anyone out by name, it's easy to draw the conclusion that he was directing his comments towards Ben Simmons. Vaughn's apparent eye roll while mentioning Simmons' departure from the game due to knee soreness furthers that possibility.
No way Jacque Vaughn rolled his eyes when he said Ben Simmons was out for “Knee Soreness” 😭pic.twitter.com/2fKPG284NY— َ (@FeelLikeDrew) January 27, 2023
In the middle of the third quarter, Simmons was guarding Jaden Ivey on the perimeter when the Pistons rookie accidentally swiped him in the eye on a drive to the basket. Simmons checked out of the game at the next dead ball, went to the locker room and did not return. However, the team noted knee soreness rather than any eye injury.
"I think the goal in my eyes is for everyone to play every game and to do what's necessary to be prepared to play every game," Vaughn said. "There's a certain amount of minutes that each individual played in Philly, some equally tonight. So the preparation that it takes going into that, you just have to give credit to the guys who were prepared to play, ready to play, did what was necessary to get their bodies ready."
This is not the first time this season that Simmons has left the second game of a back-to-back early. His exit also comes on the heels of a fourth-quarter benching on Wednesday night during the team's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Vaughn benched Simmons in large part because of his lack of aggression on the offensive end.
"I think overall it's the message I kind of talked about before the game. We're going to get every guy, and that's including Ben [Simmons] to value every possession," Vaughn said on Wednesday after the loss in Philadelphia. "To play hard every possession. And just because you play the first half, it doesn't mean you're going to play the second half."
To that point, it's notable that Simmons had not scored (on three shots), one rebound to go along with seven assists in 19 minutes before exiting against the Pistons. That's a Pistons team that has the second-worst defense in the league at 118.4 points allowed per 100 possessions and allows opponents to shoot 67.4 percent from within five feet. Yet Simmons, a day after being benched for not being aggressive enough on the offensive end, could only muster three attempts.
Simmons has plenty of positive qualities as a player, but if he's not even thinking about shooting it becomes a big problem for the Nets. This is the third time he's had zero points in a game this season, and the 13th time he's been held under five points. If Vaugn's reaction after Thursday night's loss is any indication, the team is getting a bit tired of waiting for him to figure things out.