The Nets are down 0-1 in their best-of-seven series with the Boston Celtics, but reinforcements may finally be on the way. Rumors continue to swirl that Ben Simmons is close to making his Nets debut, which could come when the series shifts to Brooklyn.
Simmons has been cleared for contact and did 4-on-4 work on Monday, Nets coach Steve Nash said following practice in Boston on Tuesday. The news is a significant step for Simmons, who the Nets could desperately use during their first-round matchup with Boston.
“He’s making progress, but there’s no real update,” Nash said. “Just see how he responds and see how he’s able to do more contact tomorrow.”
The 25-year-old will not play on Wednesday in Game 2 in Boston, but Nash was a bit more hesitant to give a definitive answer. Reports in recent weeks suggested that Game 3 could be a target date for Simmons to return, but those dates have changed in more recent reporting.
“I wouldn’t be able to say anything about that because I’m not sure how he’s going to get through these weeks,” Nash said. “We have to also consider it’s a nine-month absence or whatever it is, so it’s not like he had a six-week absence. I think it’s a pretty unique scenario. It’s not as linear as maybe the other kind of in-season injuries.”
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported Simmons is “pain-free” during Monday’s episode of NBA today.
.@ramonashelburne says Ben Simmons is "pain free" 👀
📽️ "NBA Today"#NBAPlayoffs #NetsLevel pic.twitter.com/hB72M5LImt
— 𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙠𝙞𝙣’ 𝙉𝘽𝘼 (@_Talkin_NBA) April 18, 2022
The Athletic’s Shams Charania also reported on Monday that Simmons was progressing and that he could be back on the floor by Game 4.
“By the end of the week, the goal is for Ben Simmons to get in some five-on-five and actually get bumped up, get some contact,” Charania said during an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show. “He hasn’t done that yet. He hasn’t done that since June of 2021. Game 4 is next Monday, and I’m told that is the point where we should start looking if Ben Simmons will play or not. The goal is for him to be back between Games 4 and 6. I think they are very confident that he’ll be able to make a return as soon as next Monday.”
Game 4 will take place next Monday at Barclays Center, which means Simmons has a little less than a week to prepare if he plans on returning for the series. Simmons has been a more noticeable presence around the team in recent weeks and was seen
The NBA All-Star forward ended went through dribbling drills ahead of Game 1 on Sunday in Boston and helped Patty Mills with his shooting drills before ending his pregame workout with a dunk. This came just days after he had told reporters to record him dunk at the Nets practice facility in downtown Brooklyn.
Some of the passes Simmons makes in this video would not be possible from a player with a significant back injury. pic.twitter.com/YEfdsX6vmt
— Kristian Winfield #NFTAllStar (@Krisplashed) April 17, 2022
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The Nets acquired Simmons in a blockbuster trade at the February trade deadline, along with sharpshooter Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two future first-round picks for James Harden and Paul Millsap.
A three-time NBA All-Star, Simmons was dealing with back soreness since he began his reconditioning after the trade. The organization later revealed that he was dealing with a herniated disc in his back and received an epidoral to try and mitigate the pain. Simmons hasn’t played in an NBA game since Game 7 of the Philadelphia Sixers second-round series against the Atlanta Hawks on last season.
The No.1 overall pick in the 2016 draft hasn’t played this season due to his desire to work on his mental health.
When Simmons does return to the court he is expected to make a big impact for Brooklyn’s defense. he is a two-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection. Simmons ranked in the top 20 in rebounds, assists, steals and field goal percentage during his time in Philadelphia.