According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Brooklyn Nets guard/forward Ben Simmons plans to make his season debut in Game 4 against Boston on Monday, as long as his “rehab remains on course.” The news comes the morning after the Celtics took a 2-0 lead over the Nets in their first-round matchup, winning Game 2, 114-107.
Time to deploy the famed “OH MY GOD, OKAY, IT’S HAPPENING” clip from “The Office.”
Wait... well, is it, or isn’t it?
The confusion arises from just the latest update in the Simmons saga, which, by now, seems to have as much lore and fan-fic material as the Harry Potter or Game of Thrones franchises. Simmons has been sidelined for a variety of reasons — mental health and a nagging back injury, principally — since last year, and a litany of updates of late have hinted at his return to the court coming within this series. The catch? It all depends on his rehab, which seems to be progressing. But with every update, no matter if his plan seems more definitive or not, the caveats remain.
Just yesterday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Simmons was making progress in practice this week, and that, with the team anticipating that said progress will continue to accelerate in the coming days, Game 4 was now a “realistic target for his season debut.” Woj also noted that “Simmons hasn’t been ruled out for Game 3... but there are still more Simmons would be required to clear in a much shorter window of time for him to be ready to play in Saturday’s game in Brooklyn.”
In addition, ESPN’s Nick Friedell reported earlier this week that Simmons had been elevated from 1-on-0 workouts to getting some 4-on-4 work in with his teammates after being cleared for contact. Friedell additionally reported that Simmons, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving could be seen getting up shots at the same time at practice, the first time that had happened this season.
The series’ schedule certainly helps a possible return to action, should Simmons actually plan on it. The teams just played Game 2 last night in Boston, while Philadelphia and Toronto squared off in Canada in the third game of that series. Saturday’s postseason slate includes three Game 4’s — Sixers-Raptors at 2 p.m. ET, Mavericks-Jazz at 4:30, and Grizzlies-Timberwolves at 10 — while Boston will visit Brooklyn for their third game the same night, at 7:30. Of course, this all has to do with the NBA’s broadcasting relationships, and no series is being prioritized over another. It’s merely a wrinkle, one that could benefit Simmons, given how stretched out this series has the potential of being should it go the distance.
But just consider that within the last two updates regarding Simmons’ condition, the condition that his rehab must progress in line with the team’s anticipation has been consistent.
He has not played in an NBA game since last May. Of course, since that time, he has requested a trade from the Sixers citing mental health concerns, and been traded to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for James Harden. He’s endured boos — perhaps deserved — and speculation about his desire to play basketball — perhaps overblown, but relevant nonetheless. Oh, and he had a herniated disc in his lower back, one that required an epidural shot to alleviate the pain, which he received back in March.
That’s a lot for a player to go through, no matter their mental and physical fortitude. But to be inserted, sight relatively unseen, into one of the more physical and heated first-round series’ in recent memory cannot be an easy undertaking. For his sake, if Simmons plans on playing, he better be ready and he better be 100 percent healthy. Jayson Tatum is hardly an easy assignment, and Boston is hardly a welcoming crowd.
Either way, no matter the updates, the Simmons saga remains a waiting game. The only way we’ll really know if this is real is if Simmons steps foot onto the Barclay’s Center floor next week.