Fears for Simmons as Philly return nears

Charles Barkley fears for Ben Simmons in his NBA return to Philadelphia next week but says the Brooklyn recruit must face the music.

The Australian enjoyed his brightest moments since returning from a full season out with mental health and back issues, logging his first double-digit scoring effort in the NBA in more than 500 days against Sacramento on Wednesday (AEDT).

As luck would have it, his 20-minute performance as a back-up centre came in one of the Nets' ugliest games of an eventful season, beaten 153-121 by the rampant Kings.

Terence Davis (31 points on seven-of-10 three pointers) had a career night for the Kings while six of his teammates scored at least 12 points.

But the Nets were only one point worse than the Kings with Simmons (11 points on five-of-seven shooting, five rebounds, three assists) on court in his return from a one-game absence with knee soreness.

There was an extra pop in his step and a willingness to get to the hoop that had been missing so far this season.

But Simmons remains a shell of the player he was on arrival in Philadelphia as 2016's No.1 draft pick, and former 76ers great Barkley is concerned.

"I do not feel good about that situation; he's playing bad, they're going to let him have it," he said on TNT while also questioning the logic in using Simmons as a back-up centre on the bench.

Simmons was traded to Brooklyn late last season after an ugly stand-off with the 76ers followed their limp finals exit.

Originally touted as a key to the franchise's hopes of a title alongside Joel Embiid, the Australian will return next Wednesday as public enemy No.1 in the sports-mad city.

"I hope nothing bad happens, like a fan doing something crazy," Barkley said.

"He can't even rub it in their face (by) playing good.

"He's got to play (rather than be rested), but it's going to be bad - Philadelphia don't mess around."

Meanwhile, Dyson Daniels' reputation as an elite defender was furthered in a 17-minute stint in New Orleans' 113-102 defeat of Memphis, tallying nine rebounds and adding three points, along with an assist, a block and a steal

Ja Morant was back to his enthralling best with a game-high 36 points for Memphis after missing a game with an ankle injury.

But CJ McCollum scored 30 points and Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance Jr added 19 each as the host New Orleans Pelicans won despite the absence of Zion Williamson.

Elsewhere, Portland took top spot in the west with a seven-point defeat of San Antonio, the Knicks beat Utah, and Dallas held on for a 103-101 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers after blowing a 25-point lead.