Brooklyn Boro

Nets’ Simmons could be nearing return

Swingman not cleared for practice, but making 'progress'

March 10, 2022 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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The new, and hopefully improved, Big Three could be hitting the hardwood together within the next few weeks.

With Kevin Durant back from injury and Kyrie Irving contributing in road games only until further notice, the Brooklyn Nets are eager to see how much Ben Simmons will contribute to their push for the franchise’s first-ever championship.

Of course, he has to practice first.

“It’s to be determined,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said of Simmons, who was acquired from Philadelphia in last month’s trade-deadline deal for James Harden, but hasn’t played a single minute for Brooklyn yet.

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“I think he’s progressing this week, but I don’t know what that means as far as (him practicing) Saturday,” Nash added. “So he’ll see us [Wednesday] in Philly. I don’t think he’s ready for 5-on-5 basketball but he’s improving, working out, and he’ll join us in Philly, and a few good days of rehab.”

Nets head coach Steve Nash intimated this week that Ben Simmons is getting closer to practicing with his new team. AP Photo by Matt Roarke

Simmons, who has been out since last May, when he requested a trade out of the City of Brotherly Love and cited mental health concerns as his reason for sitting out the past 10 months, was expected to be in Philly with the Nets (33-33) as they prepared to take on Harden and the 76ers Thursday night.

The 25-year-old swingman and former Rookie of the Year averaged 13.5 points, six assists and six rebounds per game during his four seasons with the Sixers after being selected first overall in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Though the Nets are fighting for their playoff lives as the current No. 8 seed, they haven’t been able to put a consistent streak together since reeling off four straight wins in December.

Brooklyn lost Durant to a knee injury thereafter. Irving can still only play in road contests until New York City changes its vaccination mandates and Simmons has been inactive since the Nets grabbed him from Philly on Feb. 10.

The emphasis leading into Thursday’s game was focused on the crowd’s reaction to Simmons, but the Nets need 6-foot-11 Australian to get back to playing alongside Durant and occasionally Irving if they hope to stay in the postseason hunt and possibly avert the NBA’s play-in tournament.

Simmons, one of the most fined players in NBA history for his lack of participation with the Sixers, has remained mostly mum since his acquisition.

His actions, however, have to speak louder than words if he returns to complete Brooklyn’s new Big Three.

The Nets have not received anything from Ben Simmons since acquiring him in the trade-deadline deal that sent James Harden to Philadelphia last month. AP Photo by Matt Slocum

Before then, the Nets will just have to wait and see if the once-heralded star can help fill the void left by Harden and drive Brooklyn toward its first major pro sports title since 1955.

“It’s great,” Nash said of Simmons showing up for Thursday’s game.

“He’s on our team, he needs to be with his teammates and get the whole Philly thing out of the way a little bit.

Maybe it never goes away, but the first time it’s always nice to kind of deal with it and move on.”

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