BOSTON — If Ben Simmons is going to play a playoff game this season, the decision is his, not someone else’s.
That’s the message Nets head coach Steve Nash delivered hours before the tip for Game 2 against the Celtics on Wednesday, exactly 10 months after Simmons last played in an NBA game.
“There’s no other way but to tell him, ‘I’m ready,’ especially after such a long absence,” Nash said at the TD Garden. “So whenever he’s ready, he has to say, ‘I feel good’, ‘I feel ready to go’, ‘I want to play,’ ‘I want to contribute.’ We can’t rush him anywhere when you’ve been out so long. It has to be something where he’s definitely comfortable and ready to play.”
Nash added that it will be “a collective decision” including the team’s performance staff, but ultimately Simmons will have his own shot.
“It was a long absence,” he said. “So I think it’s more about her [Simmons and the performance staff] try together to find a solution, a time when he can go back to where he can play safely and be healthy enough to contribute.
Simmons has continued to make progress after receiving an epidural in mid-March to ease associated pain Herniated disc in the lower back. This week, Nash, the 25-year-old all-star forward said practiced in a four-on-four setting with contact for the first time since his back injury. As Nash spoke, Simmons walked past the small group of reporters gathered for Nets’ shootaround availability into the TD Garden Court.
“Ben’s fine,” Nash said. “He’ll train again today, see if he keeps improving so he’s still making progress and moving forward.”
Simmons participated in Monday’s four-for-four and Tuesday’s five-for-zero walkthrough, which Nash defined as “scripting.” Nash said the scripting is important so that Simmons knows what actions the team is trying to execute when he makes his debut, but that thought process has been hedged with the adjustments in playoff basketball.
“If he’s ever able to play, he should familiarize himself as much as possible with what we’re doing because things change from day to day,” he said. “You make adjustments, so let him be involved in all of those things. So if he can play at some point, he’ll be comfortable.”
Simmons’ sheer presence in practice and shooting has caught the attention of some of his teammates.
“Yeah, he’s doing pretty well,” Nic Claxton said at Wednesday’s shootaround. “He definitely has a really good boast about himself at the moment. You know, I think the whole world is ready to see him back out there and he can definitely help us in a lot of ways.”
However, some teammates are still groping in the dark.
“I didn’t see much,” said Seth Curry, a former Simmons teammate in Philadelphia. “I didn’t follow him everywhere. [I’m] locked in what we do. Whatever he’s doing, I haven’t actually been to the gym to see it. I haven’t seen much.”
It remains unclear if Simmons has made enough progress to play in Game 3 at the Barclays Center on Saturday. Nash didn’t rule out Simmons for the Nets’ first home playoff game, but also said the team could be cautious considering how long the star forward has been since an NBA game.
“I can’t comment on that because I’m not even sure how he’s going to get through these weeks,” he said after Tuesday’s practice at Harvard. “We also have to take into account that it’s a nine-month absence, or whatever, so it’s not just like he’s had a six-week absence. I think it’s a pretty unique scenario and it’s not as linear as the other injuries throughout the season.”
Simmons last played for the Philadelphia 76ers against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on June 20. He cited mental health issues as the reason he didn’t play a game this season or fully attend Sixers training camp before arriving in Brooklyn about the Feb. 10 deal with James Harden.
Simmons didn’t play when he arrived in Brooklyn because he needed to improve his physical condition. He injured his back in the process.
https://www.mercurynews.com/2022/04/20/steve-nash-says-its-on-ben-simmons-to-say-im-ready-i-want-to-play/ Steve Nash says it’s up to Ben Simmons to say ‘I’m ready, I want to play’ – The Mercury News