The early returns have been promising for Ben Simmons and the Brooklyn Nets, who head out on the road for the first time this season to face the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday.
After dropping their season opener to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Nets bounced back with a 109-105 win over the Toronto Raptors on Friday.
In just his second game since June 2021, Simmons flashed the skills that made him a three-time All-Star and two-time all-defensive player.
After struggling against New Orleans, Simmons finished with six points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in 32 minutes against Toronto. The 6-foot-10 point guard also blocked two shots.
"A step up for Ben," Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said. "From the jump he was more aggressive. He got in the paint (and) every time he gets in the paint he causes problems. He's starting to show the player he can be, and I think he's still got a ways to go. Really proud of him."
Brooklyn has lost its last six meetings against Memphis, which began the season with two straight wins before trailing by 25 points in the first quarter of a 137-96 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.
"I think a great team played great, and we didn't play great," Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said.
Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant was held to 20 points against Dallas after setting a franchise record for points through the first two games of the season with 83.
Desmond Bane scored 14 points against the Mavericks and rookie David Roddy added 12 points off the bench for the Grizzlies, who were playing their third game in four nights.
Memphis has been short-handed without Jaren Jackson Jr. (right foot surgery), Dillon Brooks (left thigh soreness) and Ziaire Williams (right knee soreness).
Brooks could make his season debut on Monday, and Williams likely will return this week. Second-year forward Santi Aldama has moved into the starting lineup in place of Jackson, who is expected to be out until December.
The 6-foot-11 Aldama is averaging 11.3 points and 8.7 rebounds through the first three games.
"I'm seeing a lot of great things on the defensive side with his activity; offensively with his cutting, shot-making ability, playmaking ability," Jenkins said.
Memphis will need another solid outing from Aldama to help defend the Nets' potent trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Simmons.
Brooklyn received a spark on Friday when guard Joe Harris returned to action for the first time since last November.
Harris played 18 minutes in his season debut and instantly created more spacing for the Nets as a career 43.9-percent shooter from 3-point range.
"It was just great to see him out there," Nash said. "He's an important player for us. The quicker we can get him back up to his best is important for our group. You know the characteristics he brings as a teammate, that elite shooting, the fight, the physicality he plays with is so important. Getting him out there was really important, let alone giving us depth and ability."
Brooklyn could also have guard Seth Curry back in the rotation soon. Curry, who is coming off ankle surgery, has been practicing with the team and could return later this week.