Ben Simmons debut may finally be coming into focus for Nets

Ben Simmons
Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons (green jacket) reacts during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Barclays Center.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Is there finally a date set for when Ben Simmons will make his Nets debut? It’s a question that’s been asked time and time again since he arrived in Brooklyn via trade from Philadelphia, but now it seems an end to the questions may be close.

Simmons could be looking at a return to action as early as Game 4 of the Nets’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. The 25-year-old is eyeing Game 4, Game 5 or Game 6 for his debut, which would be at least 11 days from now.

Simmons has not started playing 5-0n-5 yet, according to Windhorst, but they hope that by the end of the week he’ll be able to ramp up to that. “Right now I have to report that it’s possible we will see Ben Simmons in this series against the Celtics,” Windhorst said.

[Complete First Round Coverage of Celtics-Nets Series]

The Athletic’s Shams Charania later confirmed Windhorst’s initial report via social media. It followed earlier reporting from Charania that suggested Game 3 as a possible date for the point guard to finally put on a Nets uniform. Simmons has been dealing with a herniated disc in his back that had significantly hindered his reconditioning after he was acquired in February and has kept him from making his debut in Brooklyn.

The Nets have remained tight-lipped surrounding his status and Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash was very non-committal about Simmons returning in the first round.

“It’s up to Ben’s back. It’s not up to me or any of us other than his back and how we can help that resolve,” Nash said. “There’s a chance Ben comes back. There’s a chance he doesn’t come back, so I think for us we have to focus on the group. Support Ben in his journey to get back on the floor, but at the same time, we don’t have time to lose focus on the group that’s playing. Ben’s a franchise cornerstone, but right now it’s about supporting him physically and mentally to get back on the floor.

“And coaching the group to put its best foot forward in the first few games of the series at least. Internally we’re not sitting here saying Ben’s returning in this series. We’ll see what happens.”

It was a similar mindset that Kevin Durant operated with and discussed when he spoke with reporters at the Nets practice facility in Brooklyn. Durant said that he wasn’t expecting Ben to play and that he was preparing to play with the team that the Nets have rolled with over the last few weeks.

The Nets superstar wouldn’t even imagine what a boost it would be for Simmons to return at some point during the series.

“I’m not putting any pressure on Ben to come out and hoop. I’m not expecting him to do anything except get his body right,” Durant said.

Earlier this week Nash did seem to have some positive news as well about Simmons when he told reporters that he was making “heavier progress” and that he was moving more, shooting and doing a little one-on-zero work. Nash did add that he still had a lot of markers to meet.

The progress may finally be a sign of Simmons getting to make his debut, especially after Simmons himself appeared to tease it a bit in a social media post. The Nets superstar posted a photo to his Instagram story appearing to show him working on the court on Wednesday.

The Nets first-round series against the Celtics is scheduled to start on Sunday with the first two games taking place in Boston.