Even with the regular season down to the home stretch, Nets head coach Steve Nash is still confident that Ben Simmons will play this year.
Nash has continued to maintain the public posture that Simmons will play this season. So far Simmons has yet to hit any of the benchmarks needed to get back on the court.
“I’m fully expecting to have him this year. That’s where my head’s at,” Nash said on Sunday after the Nets practiced in Brooklyn.
Simmons has been dealing with a back sprain that has hindered his reconditioning to get back on the floor. He has yet to suit up for Brooklyn since he was acquired as part of a blockbuster deal that sent James Harden to Philadelphia.
The mystery surrounding Simmons’ return continued with Nash again not having any updates as to when the 25-year-old will be able to do any on-court work. Simmons was at the Nets practice facility on Sunday, but did what Nash described as “physio.”
“The physical therapist just works on his rehabilitation,” Nash said. “They do what they do in a clinical setting and try to improve his condition. … A lot of bio-mechanical work, manual therapy, all sorts of stuff to get him in a position to start to move in the right sequence and fashion.”
Simmons was expected to play a major role in Brooklyn after he completed his reconditioning and was able to suit up for the Nets. However, that hasn’t been able to happen yet and getting him acclimated to the system may have to happen in the postseason, if it happens at all this year.
Simmons has already undergone an MRI, which Nash revealed on Friday, and was given an epidural while the Nets were in Orlando last week. Nash has faced increased questions over Simmons in recent weeks as things have seemed to stall with his return to action.
“It is what it is,” Nash said. “I wish I could tell you guys more. It’s all I got.”
While Simmons has yet to play a game with the Nets, he has been very visible with the team. He’s been spotted on the team bench during games, traveled with the Nets during some of their road trips and been at the team facility in Brooklyn for practices and shootarounds.
“I think we all do a good job of keeping him engaged and keeping him in the loop with everything,” Drummond said. “He’s at all the shootarounds, he’s at practice whenever he’s not rehabbing. So he’s always around, it’s not like he’s not around us. He’s on the planes, he’s with us on team trips. He’s there with us. Just waiting for him to come back and play.”
The delay has put the Nets in a tough spot with Kyrie Irving still only eligible for road games because of his status as an unvaccinated player. As of now, there has been no indication that New York City Mayor Eric Adams was planning to change the private-sector vaccine mandate anytime soon.
That means the only Nets superstar that could be on the court by the time the playoffs begin would be Kevin Durant, which is why Simmons was expected to be such an important addition. Brooklyn has been adjusting to some its other recent additions that have proven to be crucial.
“I think it’s been fun,” Drummond said about getting to know his teammates. “I think we’ve grown on each other. I think we’ve found each other’s rhythms and we’ve found each other’s games and how to make each other better. I think the more time we have together, the better we’ll be.”