Eric Patten @ericpatten | 2/28/12

LOS ANGELES–The ovation started before Bobby Simmons reached the scorer’s table. And by the time he officially checked into his first game with the Clippers in more than seven years, one thing was clear: Clipper fans have a long memory.

“Welcome back, Bobby!” one fan yelled as Staples Center greeted the backup small forward; the same one they knew as a hard-working, sharp-shooting Most Improved Player award winner in 2004-05.

Back then Simmons, now 31, was somewhat the same player he is today just perhaps a little wiser.

Press Release: Simmons signed to 10-day contract
“When I was here I was only 23, 24 years old and being up in age a little bit now, you learn from experience,” Simmons said. “And as you know basketball doesn’t really change.”

Simmons entered the game for Caron Butler with 4:36 left in the first quarter and the team’s first possession got the better of youngster Wesley Johnson, sealing off the second-year Minnesota forward to snare an offensive rebound along the baseline.

Later in his first stint on an NBA floor since playing nine minutes with the Spurs on Nov. 1, 2010, coincidentally, in a game at Staples Center versus the Clippers, Simmons caught a pass at the top of the key and found Blake Griffin in the lane for a jump hook.

The so-called little things, boxing out, playing angles, or making crisp entry passes, is part of why Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said it “made sense” to bring in a veteran.

Simmons has played nine NBA seasons, including two in L.A., and after spending 21 games in the Development League with the Reno Big Horns, Simmons was signed to a 10-day contract Monday by the Clippers.

Effectively, he has less than two weeks to prove himself as a role player.

“I think the urgency of playing well and just learning the offensive and defensive schemes and a lot of the terminology as far as what coach has for me,” Simmons said. “I think I’m picking it up pretty quick. I ended up playing 17 minutes today and didn’t expect it. It’s just a matter of being ready when I’m called.”

Simmons finished the game without a point, missing his only shot, an open midrange attempt from the left wing. He committed a turnover and was whistled for four fouls, drawing tough assignments against hot-shooting Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams, who combined for 54 points.

“Tonight was the first game and I only had one practice, so besides that it’s just a matter of getting back into the rhythm and having fun,” he said.

The expectation moving forward is that Simmons will contribute as a 3-point threat. He’s a career 40% shooter from beyond the arc, making 358 in 895 attempts.

“Bobby’s played in the league, you know, nine years,” Del Negro said. “He can make open shots and maybe gives us a little bit of a different look out there to space the floor a little bit more.”

As for the reaction of the fans upon his return, Simmons seemed genuinely appreciative.

“It was great,” he said. “Fan support is always great and just getting back in the swing of things and having an opportunity to be back on the hardwood.”