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Nets' Kevin Durant Not Expecting Ben Simmons to Play vs. Celtics Amid Return Rumors

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVApril 14, 2022

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 31:  Ben Simmons and Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets look on during their game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Barclays Center on March 31, 2022 in New York City.  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.   (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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It's unclear when—or if—Ben Simmons will return to the court for the Brooklyn Nets in this year's postseason. 

But Kevin Durant isn't counting on his teammate's return for the Nets' first-round matchup with the Boston Celtics. 

"I'm not expecting him to play," he told reporters Thursday. "That's easier for me. I'm not putting any pressure on Ben to come out there and hoop. So I'm not expecting him to do anything but just to get his body right and get healthy as fast as he can. So in my mind, I'm preparing as if we're playing with the team we have."

Simmons, 25, has yet to play this season. After demanding a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers in the summer, he told the team in late October that he "wasn't mentally ready to play to his expectations and needed time to step away," according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. And since his trade to Brooklyn, Simmons has dealt with a back injury that has kept him out of action. 

But ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported Thursday that Simmons was trying to return to action at some point during the Boston series and was targeting "Games 4, 5 or 6."

"For seven, eight weeks now I've heard nothing but pessimism on the Ben Simmons front, and that has switched dramatically in the last few days," he added. "Right now, I have to report that it is possible we will see Ben Simmons in this series against Boston."

Nets head coach Steve Nash, however, wasn't willing to offer a timetable on the power forward's potential return. 

"It's up to Ben's back," he told reporters. "It's not up to me, any of us, other than his back—and how we can help that resolve, great. There's a chance Ben comes back, there's a chance he doesn't come back. So I think for us we got to focus on the group; support Ben and 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.

Simmons' defense and playmaking would be a plus for the Nets, though there are just as many question marks about trying to work him in to a completely new team after a year away from the game. 

For instance, will the Nets be able to play Simmons with a center like Andre Drummond without completely destroying their floor spacing? How will Simmons, who played point guard for the Sixers, adjust to a different role next to Kyrie Irving? How quickly will he be able to get himself up to game speed and pick up Brooklyn's playbook? 

Those are major questions to answer, especially against the No. 2-seeded Celtics with the season on the line. Even if Simmons does return, it's hard to imagine it being anything more than a limited role off the bench, at least in the short term.