Ben Simmons, Kevin Durant returns seem sooner rather than later for Nets

Ben Simmons Kevin Durant
Ben Simmons and forward Kevin Durant watch from the bench during the second quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Will it be days or “weeks” for Ben Simmons to get on the court in Nets uniform? When will Kevin Durant hit the floor for the first time since he sprained his MCL?

All questions that have faced the Nets for the past week, which general manager Sean Marks tried to address during a season ticket holder event held on Tuesday night in Brooklyn. The return and debut of both superstars have been on the mind of everyone since the Nets acquired Simmons in a deadline day deal on Feb. 10.

“All I can say is I left the gym right before coming over here and I could see those guys on the court doing their individual workouts,” Marks said during the event moderated by YES Network‘s Michael Grady. “The pace at which Kevin for one was going at is always remarkable to me how he is just trying to master his craft. Absolutely incredible, inspirational to be honest. To have Ben on the same court and at the same time going through his ramp-up was impressive.

“Depending when they go, we got to see how they respond to days like today and we’ll go forward with this. It’s probably going to be tough, to be honest, to be playing in the next three or four days. But we’ll see how it all plays out. I’m certainly not going to bet against either one of those guys.”

[READ: Which Nets Will Benefit the Most From Ben Simmons’ Arrival?]

Marks’ comments appear to line up with comments made by Nets head coach Steve Nash prior to the NBA All-Star break that he didn’t anticipate Durant appearing in Brooklyn’s first game right after the pause.  The Nets return to action on Thursday to host the Boston Celtics at the Barclays Center.

The Nets will then have a stretch of five games over a six-day span after that beginning on Saturday in Milwaukee. Brooklyn will start the stretch run of the season sitting in eighth in the Eastern Conference and not a lot of time to practice.

If Durant doesn’t play on Thursday or Saturday then that could push his potential return to next week, when the Nets face Toronto twice and Miami. Simmons said during his introductory press conference that he was hoping to be playing by the time the Nets travel to Philadelphia on March 10.

It had been reported earlier in the week by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that he was “weeks rather than months” away from returning.

Simmons is expected to play a large role for the Nets, along with Durant and Kyrie Irving, who is limited to only road games due to the vaccine mandate in New York City.

“No secrete, he’s an elite NBA basketball player,” Marks said. “We’ve had our eyes on him for quite some time, truth be told. His versatility stands out, just what he can do on both ends of the court offensively and defensively. It’s how he fits with that group, what we need, where our holes are. … He can lead the break. A guy that can grab a defensive rebound and go in there and everyone else can just fill the lane.

“I don’t know if he’s a point guard, I don’t know if he’s a 4 -man, I don’t know if he’s a 5-man. But I do know he’s a hell of a basketball player. So we’re excited about him.”

The Nets GM is still anticipating that his team can compete for an NBA title despite the chaos that has engulfed the season. Brooklyn has had had to deal with everything from injuries to key players to COVID to the exit of one of its “Big 3.”