After defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in the play-in tournament on April 12, the Brooklyn Nets will kick off their playoff run against the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. According to ESPN Insider Adrian Wojnarowski, Nets’ forward Ben Simmons, who has yet to play this season, is expected to suit up at some point in the first round.
“Simmons had an epidural shot in mid-March to subdue pain and irritation with a herniated disc in his lower back. He has found more traction in the past week and barring setbacks, there’s an increasing confidence that he could become available to the Nets sometime in a first-round series,” Wojnarowski writes per ESPN.
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Kevin Durant Reveals Grim Truth About Ben Simmons Return
Simmons could be a big boost for Brooklyn if he does make his debut in the first round. However, Nets All-Star Kevin Durant says he is not hanging his hat on the hopes of a Simmons return during this playoff run.
“I’m not expecting him to play. I’m not putting any pressure on Ben to come out there & hoop,” Durant told reporters during shoot around on April 14 per Brian Lewis of the “New York Post”. “I’m not expecting him to do anything but just get his body right & get healthy as fast as he can. I’m preparing as if we’re playing w/ the team we have”
Despite Wojnarowski’s report that Simmons could play in the first round, Nets head coach Steve Nash says that the team does not have any further update on the 3-time All-Star’s return timetable.
“I have no idea [about Game 3]. I don’t know where these reports come from. We have no update on the timetable so I don’t think that came from us. Yeah, I would say heavier progress in the last week than the first three weeks or so after that,” Nash said to reporters per NetsDaily.
“He’s moving more, he’s shooting, he’s starting to move a little bit on the court in a one-on-zero environment. So definitely positive signs that it’s improving and moving and all those things. But like I said, he hasn’t been running full speed or playing against anybody, so still a lot more markers to meet.”
Celtics Coachs Sounds off on Simmons’ ‘Unpredictability’
Having a wild card in Simmons just waiting in the wings could serve as a big advantage for the Nets. Consequently, it could serve as a major disadvantage for Celtics’ head coach Ime Udoka and his game plan. But Udoka says that he and his squad have to be prepared to make the necessary adjustments if Simmons does return.
“It’ll be hard to emulate [Simmons] being with Brooklyn because we haven’t seen him used with them. Obviously, I coached him two years ago, and a lot of guys have played with or against him, so we know what he is. Obviously, being off for a year, there’s going to be some rust, and some unpredictability as far as how they’ll implement him with their team,” Udoka said to reporters per NetsDaily.
“But we know his game, we know what he does, and unless something’s happened the last year, we know how to attack him and manipulate certain things, as far as that. But it’s tough because he hasn’t played with that team, so who knows how [he’ll] be used with them.”
Simmons’ status hangs in the balance and could play a major factor on the outcome of this series. While the likelihood of him playing remains to be seen, the Nets will have to prepare as if they are going to battle without Simmons’ services.