Ten days after Steve Nash told reporters Ben Simmons would be sidelined for the Play-In Tournament, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports that Simmons is now targeting Game 4, 5, or 6 of the Nets’ first-round matchup against the Boston Celtics for his debut with the Brooklyn.
Simmons has remained sidelined throughout the season since being traded from Philadelphia to Brooklyn while mending a back injury. Windhorst reported that while Simmons hasn’t begun five-on-five scrimmages, the hope is that he would be able to progress to that stage by the end of the week.
While this is the most solidified timeline Brooklyn has had on Simmons’ return to the court, both Durant and Nash expressed their plans to prepare for Boston regardless of Simmons’s timeline after practice on Thursday.
“I’m not expecting him to play,” Durant said. “That’s easier for me. I’m not putting any pressure on Ben to come out there and hoop. So I’m not expecting him to do anything but just to get his body right and get healthy as fast as he can. So in my mind, I’m preparing as if we’re playing with the team we have.”
Even though the three-time All-Star hasn’t played in almost a year, the defensive prowess and knack to find the open guy would be increasingly influential for Brooklyn in the postseason.
“There’s a chance Ben comes back; there’s a chance he doesn’t come back. So I think for us, we got to focus on the group; support Ben and his journey to get back on the floor, but at the same time we don’t have time to lose focus on the group that’s playing,” Nash said after practice.
The focus is on the here and now for the Nets as they prepare for Game 1 of the first round against the Boston Celtics Sunday night in TD Garden.