Nets focused on play-in, but Ben Simmons return looms over playoff run

Ben Simmons
Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons takes warmups prior to the game against the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center.
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Simmons was spotted at the Nets practice facility getting more work in as the rest of the team prepared for Tuesday’s play-in round game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

All eyes have been on Simmons as it’s been a race against the clock for him to get back onto the court in time for the playoffs. He won’t be back for Tuesday’s opportunity to advance to the first round, but there has been growing chatter that he could return in time for the first round.

Asked about that possibility, teammate Seth Curry said the Nets were more focused on the task in front of them.

[READ: Nets’ Seth Curry says he’s playing vs. Cavaliers in play-in game]

“Honestly as a team, we take it, I mean we’re worried about the play-in game right now,” Curry said. “If Ben comes in we’ll try to integrate him as much as possible, but I feel like we’re locked into this play-in situation right now. And if Ben does become available we’ll deal with that then. We have to worry about who we have out there and focus on Cleveland.

“I don’t think anybody been thinking about when can come back right now as a team. Maybe the coaches or front office, but as players, we locked into the task at hand.”

Simmons has certainly seemed more present in recent weeks, especially over the last few days. On Saturday, the Nets’ social media team put out a video that featured the 25-year-old point guard in it and then Sunday he was on the court during warmups doing some shooting.

It was also reported on Sunday by both ESPN and The Athletic’s Shams Charania that there was optimism that Simmons could make his debut during the first round. If that does come to fruition, Nets head coach Steve Nash said that the team would welcome the challenge.

“Another challenge, but one that we’d welcome, clearly,” Nash said, according to ESPN. “So we’ll see — if he’s able to play at some point it would be great to incorporate him and to try and learn as we go and see how he can help our team without having much history, or any history, with our group.”

The  Nets would play the Boston Celtics in the opening round of the playoffs should they win on Tuesday. The series would begin on Easter Sunday.

While the Nets are focused on Tuesday’s play-in game, the return of Simmons will loom over Brooklyn’s postseason run. And integrating a player into the lineup who has not played for the team before will come with its challenges.

Simmons was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers in February and was ramping up to play after sitting out the first half of the year while he worked on his mental health. Simmons suffered a herniated disc during the reconditioning process and prevented him from returning in March when had hoped to.

Curry, who was part of the deal that also sent James Harden to Philly, didn’t sound too concerned with the idea of having to integrate Simmons in the middle of a playoff round.

“I think it’s easy because we got a veteran team and Ben’s a guy you don’t need to call plays for him,” Curry said. “He can guard a lot of different positions, he can play a lot of different positions offensively and I mean that’s why it should be easy. I mean it’s never easy to mix lineups. That’s always tough.”

Nash seemed similarly confident about the situation.

“The bottom line is we’d be adding a substantial talent to our team so we really welcome him,” Nash said. “He fits and he helps in a number of ways. We’re in need of help so we would welcome that challenge of trying to incorporate him in a playoff situation where he has no history with our team. No minutes on the floor with his teammates and see how we can forge that understanding as quickly as possible.”