The Brooklyn Nets have poured cold water on Ben Simmons’ potential return against the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs, despite a report claiming the Australian would be making his highly anticipated debut for the team.
ESPN reported that the Nets and the 6-foot-11 former No. 1 pick are considering a return as early as Game 4 of the best-of-seven series against the Celtics.
It is understood that Simmons is yet to play five-on-five, but the report says the Aussie is expected to do so by the end of the week.
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However, just a day after the report was released, Brooklyn star Durant and coach Nash played down the Aussie’s chances of playing his first game in almost a year.
“No, I don’t expect him to play,” Durant said after practice this morning (AEST).
“It’s easier for me. I don’t put any pressure on Ben to come out and hoop. I don’t expect him to do anything other than get his body right and to get healthy as fast as he can. I’m preparing as if we’re playing with the team we have.”
Nash said Simmons is still doing individual work as he recovers from a herniated L-4 disc in his back that required an epidural injection on March 15.
“Internally, we’re not sitting here saying Ben will come back to this series. We’ll see what happens,” the coach said.
“It’s up to Ben to decide. It’s not up to me or any of us. There’s a chance Ben will come back, there’s a chance he won’t come back.
“For us, we have to focus on the group, supporting Ben on his journey back to the pitch, but at the same time we don’t have time to lose focus on the group that is playing.
“Ben is a cornerstone of the franchise, but right now it’s all about supporting him physically and mentally to get him back on the court, and coaching this group to do their best in the early games of the series at least.”
The first overall pick in the 2016 draft, Simmons hasn’t played in a game since the 76ers were knocked out of the playoffs last June. His inclusion on the Nets roster since the James Harden trade seethes with Brooklyn struggling through the second half of the season.
Nash understands the importance of having Simmons on the team and the pressure he will take away from Durant on defense, while taking over point guard duties, giving the team another point of attack.
The Brooklyn coach says when the team’s medical staff give the Aussie the all-clear, they won’t hesitate to throw him into the lineup.
“He’s a super talented player,” Nash said. “I think we should give [it] a chance if he was healthy enough to play.”
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