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Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons, Jamal Murray puts up a show in Monday preseason after respective long recovery hiatus

Photo: Julia Nikhinson / Associated Press

The long wait has ended, as Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons and Jamal Murray have officially ended their long recovery hiatus from their respective injury this Monday.

Ben Simmons

In his first official game after missing the entirety of the 2021-22 season due to an embattled saga with the Philadelphia 76ers and a lingering back issue, Ben Simmons looked solid and running well with the Brooklyn Nets.

It’s no coincidence that he faced his former team, the Sixers, in his first unofficial game as a Net. As such, he produced a typical all-around statline of his career – posting up six points, five assists, four boards in three-for-six shooting from the field in 19 minutes of play.

Though Brooklyn went down with a 127-108 loss inside the Barclays Center, the Nets fans are still delighted on what the Australian point forward has delivered. He flushed a one-handed jam for his first points since being out in 470 days, while delivering a no-look dime on the trailing Nic Claxton for a dunk.

Partly unexpected, Simmons drew jeers and boos from the crowd – specifically from the spectating Sixers crowd – during a pair of free-throw opportunities. He missed both of these shots, and this might signal a long season coming for the embattled star and his ex-Philly team.

Jamal Murray

Out of the four NBA stars mentioned, Jamal Murray was kept out from basketball activities for the longest time. He was ruled out for 539 days after suffering from an ACL tear during the tail end of the 2020-21 season, which made him also unavailable to suit up in the following campaign. This devastatingly wounded the Denver Nuggets’ title hopes.

But finally, the microwave guard is back with all smiles carved in his face. In 15 minutes of play against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder, Murray chalked up 10 points with two triples to go along with two assists. He also managed to beat the halftime buzzer with a fadeaway shot off the glass.

As he is poised to be more ready for days and months to come, the Nuggets faithful can only be delighted on what lies ahead regarding their championship dreams, with back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic having his right-hand man back again.

Kawhi Leonard and Damian Lillard

After serving up their respective recoveries, both Kawhi Leonard and Damian Lillard put on a show in front of the franchise-hoping Seattle fans in the Los Angeles Clippers – Portland Trail Blazers bout.

Leonard, who was out for a total of 476 days, still has that sharp mid-range game, defensive instincts and shooting. He went off with 11 points, four boards and two steals in 16 minutes en route to the Clippers’ 102-97 exhibition dub. As he was still maintaining that careful type of play, the two-time Finals MVP still looked legit and back like he never left the game for a while to take his time from ACL healing.

On the other hand, Lillard still got that fiery touch he boasts as one of the league’s most premiere and deadly snipers. He finished with 16 points (three-for-eight triples), three rebounds and two dimes in 23 minutes of exposure. After 276 days of absence because of an abdominal injury, the future hall of famer looked unbothered and ready to lead Portland back to vengeful relevance.

As these four have found their place back again in the association, this 2022-23 season can only be exciting and intense in terms of parity and the upcoming war for the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy. Fans surely hope of a safe and healthy season for all the 30 teams moving forward.

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