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Woj: Ben Simmons Expected to Take Next Step in Back Injury Rehab, Play vs. Teammates

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVApril 16, 2022

Brooklyn Nets' Ben Simmons watches practice before an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 10, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons is reportedly set to take part in scrimmages next week with an eye toward a potential debut during the team's playoff series against the Boston Celtics.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the update Saturday on Simmons, who's yet to play since being acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Philadelphia 76ers in February because of a back injury:

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

So far, his workouts have been limited to 1-on-0, but thatโ€™s about to change. Hope remains Simmons could make his debut later in the Nets-Celtics series. More on NBA Countdown on ESPN at noon ET. <a href="https://t.co/4CESkrPilE">https://t.co/4CESkrPilE</a>

The three-time All-Star hasn't played a game since June 20, when the Sixers were eliminated from the 2021 playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks.

Simmons stayed away from the Philadelphia organization for most of the offseason while awaiting a potential trade that didn't initially materialize. He returned before the start of the regular season but opted against playing in order to focus on his mental health.

The 76ers fined the 25-year-old Australian for not taking part in games, and the total reached nearly $20 million before he was traded to Brooklyn. He's filed a grievance in an effort to get the money returned.

He was dealt to the Nets alongside Andre Drummond, Seth Curry and draft picks in exchange for James Harden and Paul Millsap at the trade deadline.

Simmons' return was then delayed by the back injury, which was diagnosed in March as a herniated disc.

Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash appeared to downplay reports of the guard's progress Friday when asked if his practice workload had increased.

"He hasn't been able to do anything yet, so no," Nash told reporters.

Yet Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer is also hearing Simmons is trending toward a return, potentially as early as Game 3 vs. the Celtics, which is scheduled for next Saturday.

It's impossible to know what the 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year could provide after 10 months away from competitive action, especially since he'd be hopping right into the heat of a playoff series.

Ideally for the Nets, he'd join the starting lineup to split ball-handling responsibilities with Kyrie Irving and defend either Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, which could provide a massive boost at that end of the floor.

If he's not ready for that type of significant role, he could operate as the reserve point guard to give Irving a breather along with playing some crunch-time minutes with the starters.

The outlook should become clearer once Simmons takes part in a few full-throttle practice sessions.