NEW YORK — Brooklyn Nets swingman Ben Simmons will not be making his season debut in the regular season as he continues to deal with a herniated disk issue in his back, Nets coach Steve Nash said after Monday’s practice. Nash added that while he remains hopeful that Simmons will return at some point in the playoffs, he would be “shocked” if Simmons played in the Nets’ play-in game next week.
“He’s not running, so yeah,” Nash said. “I don’t see him [being ready]. I would be shocked.”
After requesting a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers last summer, citing mental health concerns, Simmons was finally dealt to the Nets just before the trade deadline in February but has not been able to play because of ongoing issues with his back. Nash said that Simmons actually made progress Monday by being able to shoot and starting to do some work with resistance bands, but the organization still has no idea when, or if, Simmons might be able to play this season.
“I mean that’s a big progression just to get here,” Nash said. “So he was doing nothing on the floor. But obviously he clearly started strengthening and doing some light shooting. So super positive on one hand; on the other hand, it’s not like … we’re expecting him in the lineup in the next week.”
Nash said recently that he wouldn’t have a problem with Simmons making his debut in a playoff game even if he hadn’t played all year. He also made it clear Monday that the Nets would take every precaution before putting him back on the floor.
“If he had played 65 games, this year and we’re going into the playoffs, and he had a few weeks’ injury, maybe [you’d think about rushing the normal progression],” Nash said. “But, I think in this situation, we got to put his health and safety first and make sure that we’re certain he’s ready to play and contribute. And the other part is he hasn’t played basketball, so you don’t know what kind of Ben you get. And he hasn’t been in an NBA game for, you know, nine to 10 months.”
Simmons’ teammates and coaches have repeatedly said he remains in good spirits in his new surroundings, but they just don’t know when he’ll be able to return to the floor. The Nets currently sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference with a 40-38 record. Nash demurred when asked how realistic it would be to think Simmons could come back and play in the first round if the Nets were able to advance that far.
“We’ll see,” Nash said. “I don’t want to get too far down the road, like, I don’t want to walk through the next five weeks with you guys and guessing — you guys saw where he is today. He’s doing some increased strengthening, some increased mobility stuff, a little bit of shooting and that’s it.”
As far as the rest of the Nets’ injuries, Bruce Brown went through Monday’s practice and is expected to play Tuesday against the Houston Rockets after missing Saturday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks because of a non-COVID illness. Guard Goran Dragic (health and safety protocols) remains in Atlanta, and it is unclear when he’ll be able to return.
Nash also admitted that the Nets have discussed the possibility of shutting down guard Seth Curry for the last four games of the regular season as he continues to deal with left ankle soreness.
“That’s the position we’re in, is do we try to sit him?” Nash said. “Does him sitting for a week help? Or is he right back in the same boat anyway? And how important is it for us to try to creep up into the seven, eight spot? So we’re weighing all those things and it’s kind of more daily than it is making a decision.”