The Brooklyn Nets punched their ticket into the first round of the NBA playoffs, securing a best-of-7 series against All-Star Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and the Boston Celtics. But, the biggest question on everyone’s mind remains: When will the Nets’ point guard Ben Simmons be cleared to play?
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, per Bleacher Report, said Simmons is targeting Game 4, 5, or 6 of Brooklyn’s series against the Celtics during his appearance on “Get Up.” However, Ben’s imminent return could happen sooner rather than later.
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Goodman: ‘The Plan is for him to Play Game 1’
According to Stadium’s Jeff Goodman, 2016’s first overall pick and the Nets are planning to start their best-of-7 series with Simmons in uniform.
“Yeah, I’m told, by my sources, that Ben Simmons, as of now, the plan is for him to play Game 1,” Goodman said on CLNS Media’s Bob Ryan & Jeff Goodman podcast. “Game 1 of their first-round series, not the Play-In. Where will that be? Here in Boston. How about that? Kyrie, having to exercise a couple of demons against Cleveland, and then, potentially Boston. Ben Simmons returning, playing his first game, this season, in Boston.”
Goodman doesn’t expect Nets head coach Steve Nash to play Simmons for the typical 32+ minutes he’s averaged throughout his four-year career. However, Jeff believes a minute-restricted Ben would still make an impact.
“It probably depends on how much he’s been able to practice with the team at this point,” Goodman said. “To me, you’re not going to ask him to do too much, early. Right? You give him 10-15 minutes (in) Game 1 if you can. And, you just make him facilitate and defend. And, if his body is up to it, then that’s probably all you’ll need.”
Ryan: What About Kyrie Irving?
Robert Williams’ absence (meniscus) for the Celtics is a hurdle for veteran Al Horford and Daniel Theis to climb. However, it’s a loss Brooklyn will look to exploit throughout its best-of-7 series; Simmons’ presence would help accentuate that notion.
“In this series, without Robert Williams, I feel like: push the ball,” Goodman said about Brooklyn’s offense. “If he’s got his athleticism, and his back is healthy, he can push it; he can just give it to Kyrie and KD and finish when he needs to. The days of saying, ‘Hey, Ben Simmons has to shoot the ball’? They’re gone with Kyrie and KD around. They don’t need that. They don’t need that from him.”
Goodman’s co-host Bob Ryan also weighed in on Simmons potentially entering the beginning of Brooklyn’s first-round series, agreeing with Goodman’s assessment. However, Bob’s belief is one of Boston’s biggest concerns shouldn’t lie on the star who hasn’t played a single game this season, but rather on Kyrie Irving; who averaged over 30 points per in the final 15 games of the regular season, guiding the Nets to a 10-5 finish.
“He’s going to be a real threat,” Ryan said. “Analyze him as a ballplayer, and forget about the personality. There are people who categorically say that he is the greatest finisher at his size in the history of the game. Period.”