Nets GM Defends Ben Simmons amid Injury: 'We Saw How He Wanted to Get Out There'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMay 17, 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 general manager Sean Marks said point guard Ben Simmons made every effort to return from a back injury before the team was eliminated from the 2022 NBA playoffs by the Boston Celtics.

Marks told the YES Network's Michael Grady on Monday (via Nets Daily) that Simmons' critics should be "a bit careful of what you're saying because you really don't know."

"I had a conversation with Ben. We all did. We saw how he wanted to get out there," Marks said. "To be honest, I've got to admire that. He tries to do three-on-three, five-on-five and then you turn around and get an MRI. You see the disk herniation has gotten worse, and you think, 'Well, this guy is pushing through something that he shouldn't be pushing through.'"

Simmons stayed away from his former team, the Philadelphia 76ers, for most of last offseason while awaiting a trade.

The three-time All-Star returned to the Sixers before the start of the 2021-22 season but opted against playing in games in order to focus on his mental health.

He was finally traded to the Nets in February as part of a blockbuster deal also headlined by James Harden heading to Philly.

Simmons' efforts to return were hampered by the back injury, which was diagnosed in March as a herniated disk. He tried to ramp up his activity level again ahead of the playoffs but ultimately didn't play in the team's four-game sweep at the hands of the Celtics.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported a subsequent meeting in April between Simmons, agent Rich Paul and the Nets front office made it clear that, while the back injury was an issue, the sides must also "keep addressing the mental side of that process" before next season.

The 25-year-old LSU product has since undergone back surgery and will require 3-4 months of recovery, though he should be ready for the start of training camp, per Wojnarowski.

Marks told Grady he's hopeful Simmons will be ready when the team starts its preparations for the 2022-23 campaign. That will make it easier to get him acclimated to the culture, which is difficult to accomplish in the midst of a season.

"We need to get him immersed in here, back on the court, as soon as possible," Marks said. "We're not going to push it, not going to rush it back but at the end of the day, we have a few months here unfortunately—but fortunately from his standpoint, from his well-being and his health—that'll get him back in time for open gym and training camp and so forth."

The GM added: "But it's about supporting him, make sure we have the right people around him and welcome him into our family."

Simmons is under contract with the Nets for three more seasons as part of a five-year, $177.2 million deal, so getting him back on the court is essential to the team's short-term success.

The two-time NBA All-Defensive first-team selection has the potential to provide a major boost alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving if healthy.