Windhorst: Ben Simmons Targeting Nets Debut as Early as Game 4 vs. Celtics

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVApril 14, 2022

BROOKLYN, NY - APRIL 10: Ben Simmons #10 of the Brooklyn Nets during the game against the Indiana Pacers on April 10, 2022 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Point guard Ben Simmons is reportedly aiming to make his season debut during the Brooklyn Nets' first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics.

Appearing Thursday on Get Up, ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst said Simmons is targeting Game 4, 5 or 6 of the series for his first in-game appearance as a member of the Nets.

Simmons has not played ]this season, as he initially held out from the Philadelphia 76ers in hopes of a trade before getting dealt to Brooklyn as part of a deal that sent James Harden to Philly.

While the Nets hoped Simmons would make his debut during the regular season, things have been delayed as the 25-year-old star manages a back injury.

Windhorst noted that while he "heard nothing but pessimism" regarding the possibility of Simmons playing this season over the past seven or eight weeks, things have "switched dramatically" in recent days.

Still, there is plenty of work to be done before Simmons is ready for game action. Windhorst said he was told by sources that the Aussie has yet to progress to five-on-five scrimmages during practice.

Windhorst added that sources said the hope is Simmons can ramp up to playing five-on-five by the end of the week.

On Tuesday, the Nets defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-108 in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament, locking them in as the No. 7 seed in the East.

Brooklyn is perhaps the most dangerous seventh seed in the history of the NBA playoffs with or without Simmons thanks to the combination of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

The Nets had some rough stretches during the season when Durant and Irving missed a significant number of games, but now that both are healthy and playing at a high level, they are a legitimate threat to knock out the No. 2 Celtics in the first round.

Adding Simmons' elite defense to the mix would make the Nets an even tougher out.

The three-time All-Star was the runner-up in the NBA Defensive Player of the Year voting last season, and he has averaged 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game during his career.

Simmons would likely be tasked with guarding Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown, and it would give the Nets a massive boost if he could hold either of them in check.

While Simmons averaged a career-low 14.3 points per game last season and then struggled mightily in the playoffs—he scored 11.9 points per game while shooting 34.2 percent from the free-throw line—Brooklyn wouldn't need much of an offensive contribution from him.

Durant and Irving can carry the load in that regard, with the likes of Seth Curry and Patty Mills pitching in as well.

Simmons' defense would make the Nets a much more well-rounded team, but based on Windhorst's report, Brooklyn will have to survive at least the first three games of its series against Boston without him. Even then, it isn't guaranteed that he will be back.