Kyrie Irving Says Ben Simmons Didn't Have Any Pressure to Play for Nets amid Injury

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVApril 26, 2022

Brooklyn Nets' Ben Simmons, center, sits on the bench during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics, Saturday, April 23, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
AP Photo/John Minchillo

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving said they never put pressure on Ben Simmons to join the lineup despite the void created by his absence and the departure of James Harden.

Irving explained after Monday's playoff elimination at the hands of the Boston Celtics the team will continue to support Simmons, who didn't play at all during the 2021-22 season while focusing on his mental health and recovering from a back injury:

DaveEarly @DavidEarly

"We lost a franchise player and we got a franchise player back but we didn't get chance to see [Ben Simmons] on the floor. There was no pressure for him to step on the floor with us either. Ben's good, we have Ben, we have his back he's gonna be good for next year."<br>Kyrie Irving <a href="https://t.co/XNkkKWWA5C">pic.twitter.com/XNkkKWWA5C</a>

After ample speculation Simmons was set to return for Game 4 with Brooklyn down 3-0 to the Celtics, he was ultimately ruled out of the season-ending contest.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that while the three-time All-Star did wake up with renewed back soreness Sunday, his agent, Rich Paul, told the Sixers there were also "mental hurdles" remaining before Simmons could return to action.

Now his team debut will have to wait until the 2022-23 campaign.

While the Nets didn't attempt to rush Simmons back on the floor, there's no doubt his absence was a factor in the team's quick playoff exit. The two-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection would have provided a major boost at that end of the floor.

He would have also taken some of the playmaking responsibility off the shoulders of Irving and Kevin Durant, who shot just 39.4 percent from the field in the series.

At its core, the NBA remains a star-driven league, and the Nets weren't able to find the right combination after one star in Harden walked out the door and another in Simmons remained sidelined.

Head coach Steve Nash said he was unable to construct a lineup he could count on—whether it was because of Simmons' absence, Irving being out early in the season because of his COVID-19 vaccination status or injuries—which prevented the team from reaching its peak.

"I think that's a big reason why we were in that position, a lack of continuity," Nash told reporters. "Kevin having to carry such a heavy burden to keep us in the playoff picture. All those things off the floor play a role in what happens on the floor as well. They're tied, and there's no question that it has an impact. Over the course of the season, there were just too many, too many things that held us back for moments and pockets."

So a season that began with so much promise from Brooklyn ended with a whimper.

Getting Simmons back to open next season would be a major step in the right direction, but it's too early to know whether he'll be ready in October.