Brooklyn Nets star Ben Simmons faced fresh scrutiny Monday night when the team lost to the New York Knicks for the first time since January 2020, 124-106.

Simmons, who is in the middle of a five-year, $177.2 million contract, came off the bench and played 13 minutes as he tries to deal with knee pain and outside criticism for not living up to the money he’s making. But the voices didn’t go away during the game against the Knicks.

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February 13, 2023; New York, New York, United States; Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Harris (12) and guard Ben Simmons (10) help Cameron Johnson (2) up after a foul by New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

In the first quarter, Simmons received a rebound pass from Cam Johnson and had a lane to the basket. Instead of ending up at the rim, he passed the ball to Nic Claxton at the last moment. Claxton tried to poke through the Knicks defenders, but he missed the shot.

NBA fans were baffled.

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Simmons was 1-for-2 from the field and finished with two points, three rebounds and two assists. He hasn’t scored in double figures since Jan. 22.

Nets coach Jacque Vaughn discussed Simmons’ role.

New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) drives to the basket as Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons (10) and Knicks forward Obi Toppin (1) look on during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, February 13, 2023, in New York.

New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) drives to the basket as Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons (10) and Knicks forward Obi Toppin (1) look on during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, February 13, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Jessie Alcheh)

«It’s going to be some work that we have to do,» Vaughn told reporters, via SNY. «Because you just take a look at what the lineups might look like. You put another big guy next to Ben, then you have to figure out what the spacing is around him. Then if you put a playmaker next to him, then you have to find out what Ben looks like without the basketball.So if you go small with Ben then you have to find out if you can rebound enough with him.

«So the challenges are ahead of us. We’ll look at them head-on. We’ll figure it out. We’ve got the staff to figure it out. Whether I mix and match different game pieces and allow him to have a group and run with a group, that part of it we will solve, but you see the challenges that lie ahead.

Simmons told reporters Monday morning before the game that he wasn’t sure what his role was.

Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons looks on before an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in New York.

Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons looks on before an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Jessie Alcheh)

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«Everything has been changing all year, so it’s hard to really understand what’s going on, but I hope we find some rhythm and consistency,» he said, via the New York Daily News. «It’s different. It’s a different experience [coming off the bench]. So whatever the team needs from us to win, I’m willing to do it.»