Ben Simmons 'Progressing and Moving Forward' from Injury amid Rumors of Nets Debut

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVApril 20, 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 head coach Steve Nash provided a positive update Wednesday regarding guard-forward Ben Simmons' recovery from a back injury.

According to ESPN's Nick Friedell, Nash said Simmons is "progressing and moving forward," though he didn't give a timeline for Simmons' expected return to game action.

Simmons has not played this season, but there is growing hope that he could suit up during the Nets' first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported Wednesday that Game 4 on Monday "is looming as a realistic target" for Simmons' return.

Nash added that Simmons would take part in a workout Wednesday, but the Nets are taking a cautious approach.

Simmons began the season with the Philadelphia 76ers, but he reportedly requested a trade in August. That led Philadelphia to send Simmons to Brooklyn as part of a package for guard James Harden in February.

The hope was that Simmons would play during the regular season and be at full strength for the playoffs, but a herniated disk threw a wrench into the plans.

Simmons has been doing individual on-court workouts, but he wasn't cleared for contact until Tuesday. He took part in four-on-four drills Monday.

Last week, ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported Simmons was targeting Game 4, 5 or 6 of the playoff series against Boston for his debut.

The seventh-seeded Nets trail the second-seeded Celtics 1-0, and Game 2 will take place Wednesday night in Boston.

Simmons could provide a huge boost—especially on defense—if he can give Brooklyn any minutes during the series.

The 25-year-old Aussie, who is a three-time All-Star, boasts career averages of 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game in four NBA seasons. He is also a quality playmaker with 7.7 assists and 15.9 points per game during his career.

Simmons finished second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting last season, so he could play a significant role in helping slow down Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

For all his strengths, Simmons has obvious deficiencies, as he scored a career-low 14.3 points per game last season, has made only five three-point field goals in 275 regular-season games and shot a miserable 34.2 percent from the free-throw line during last season's playoffs.

None of that matters much to the Nets, though, since Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving do the bulk of the shooting and scoring with Seth Curry and Patty Mills pitching in as well.

Brooklyn is already perhaps the most dangerous No. 7 seed in the history of the NBA playoffs, but if it can bring Simmons' defensive and playmaking abilities into the fold, it will become an even tougher out.