Ben Simmons injury update: Nets star plans to make debut in Game 4 vs. Celtics, per report

Ben Simmons plans to play in Game 4 of the Brooklyn Nets‘ first-round series against the Boston Celtics next Monday at Barclays Center, provided that there are no setbacks in the coming days, according to The Athletic. ESPN had previously reported that Monday’s game was a realistic target for Simmons, who has been ramping up to return from a back injury. 

Simmons played 4-on-4 on Monday for the first time since the Nets acquired him at the trade deadline, and he has continued to take contact without any issues, per coach Steve Nash. 

“He had a workout this morning,” Nash said before Brooklyn’s 114-107 loss in Game 2 at TD Garden on Wednesday. “I think he came out OK. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. But it was another step. And so far, so good.”

Asked directly about ESPN’s report, Nash said, “That’s news to me. I don’t think we’re targeting any game. I think we’re trying to see how he develops, how he progresses, and that’s something that, with the recent history since the trade, has not been straightforward. So, while it’s exciting to see him on the floor and see him make progress, I don’t think any of us are saying it’s imminent.”

Simmons last played in an NBA game on June 20, 2021, in Game 7 of the Philadelphia 76ers’ second-round series against the Atlanta Hawks. If he indeed makes his Brooklyn debut on Mondayt, it will be his first appearance in 309 days.

“There’s no other way than him to say, ‘I’m ready,'” Nash told reporters at morning shootaround on Wednesday. “Especially after an absence this long. So whenever he is ready, it’s going to have to be on him to say, ‘I feel comfortable. I feel ready to go. I want to play and I want to contribute.’

“We can’t push him places when you have been out this long. It’s got to be something where he is definitely comfortable and ready to play.”

Brooklyn big man Nic Claxton told reporters that Simmons is “coming along pretty good” and “definitely has a real good swagger about himself right now.”

Here is Simmons dunking at practice last weekend:

Had the Nets avoided a fourth-quarter collapse in Boston in Game 2, this situation would seem simpler: Simmons would be reportedly set to come back to a 2-1 series, with Brooklyn trying to either tie it up or put the Celtics on the brink of elimination. Now that Boston is up 2-0, however, he might be in a bit of a weird spot. If a Game 4 return is reasonable, then is Game 3 on Saturday completely out of the question? If the Nets lose that game, is it really worth bringing him back? 

In theory, Simmons plugs Brooklyn’s biggest holes. Last season he was perhaps the best defender in the entire league; Nash would surely love to throw that version of Simmons at Boston stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The Nets’ lack of size hurts their halfcourt defense and their defensive rebounding, and their offense, which can be deadly but can devolve into too much isolation play, could use an injection of pace, passing and athleticism. 

Brooklyn is used to weaponizing non-shooters, although that has been more difficult against the Celtics’ elite, switch-heavy defense. If nothing else, having Simmons available for even 10-15 minutes would give Nash more lineup flexibility, which should be helpful for a team that is clearly searching for answers. 

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