Once again, Nets head coach Steve Nash said injured star Ben Simmons is still a ways away from making his season debut.
And once again, a series of reputable reports suggest otherwise.
Quite frankly, no one knows what to believe as it pertains to Simmons, the 25-year-old Australian All-Star forward who has been recovering from a herniated disk in his lower back. Simmons was still limited to only individual rehab work at Thursday’s practice at Brooklyn’s HSS Training Facility.
“He’s still not working with the group, so to speak,” Nash said after practice. “He’s with the group, watching, observing, taking everything in, but his physical plan is still individual.”
Nets veteran guard Goran Dragic arrived at Nets practice early on Thursday and said Simmons was not at the facility while the team played pickup and practiced.
That makes it near impossible to believe Simmons could be ready to take the floor in 11 days, which is the timeline The Athletic’s Shams Charania provided on Thursday, and even more impossible to believe that Simmons could ramp-up to playing five-on-five basketball by the end of next week, which is what ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported Thursday morning on “Get Up.”
Both Windhorst and Charania are now reporting Simmons can make his Nets debut at some point after Game 3 of the Nets’ upcoming first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics. Charania gave a specific window between Games 4 and 6 of the series, which would be sometime between April 25 and 29.
“For seven, eight weeks now, I’ve heard nothing but pessimism on the Ben Simmons front, and that has switched dramatically in the last few days,” Windhorst said on ESPN Thursday morning. “So right now I have to report that it is possible we will see Ben Simmons in this series against the Celtics.”
The reports, however, contradict what Nash has told the public. He said Simmons still has not started sprinting. Nash said Simmons is doing exercises in the water and has been using the Anti-Gravity AlterG Treadmill, but the star forward has not progressed beyond individual work and needs to get to one-on-one, two-on-two and eventually to five-on-five.
As of Thursday, Nash remained noncommittal as to whether or not he expects to see Simmons on the floor this season. If he returns, the Nets will welcome him with open arms, but if not, they will forge ahead without him.
“Yeah, I think that’s it. I mean, it’s up to Ben’s back,” Nash said after practice. “You know, it’s not up to me, any of us other than his back and how we can help that resolve. There’s a chance Ben comes back, there’s a chance he doesn’t come back.
“So I think for us, we’ve 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.”
Kevin Durant said it’s easier for him not to expect Simmons is going to return any time soon.
“I’m not putting any pressure on Ben to come out there and hoop,” Durant said after Thursday’s practice. “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.”
He also said he’s not thinking about what it would look like with Simmons on the floor alongside the other Nets starters.
“We all know what type of player Ben is,” Durant added. “You can put together scenarios in your mind on your own on what it’ll look like, but I’m not gonna go there because we’re just taking it a day at a time.”
Nash, however, previously told the Daily News he sees the comparison between Simmons and Golden State Warriors’ star Draymond Green. Nash doubled-down on that comparison on Thursday.
“Absolutely. I think that’s Ben’s brilliance,” he said. “You look at the athlete that he is, the ability to handle and pass, rebound, defend, push and transition. That’s a lot of skills, and a lot of ways that he can affect the game.”
Thinking like that, however, is putting the cart before the horse, and despite reports suggesting Simmons could make a debut in the first round, the star forward has benchmarks he must clear before he can take the floor. Nash has to coach the team he has in front of him while also keeping tabs on Simmons’ progress.
“Ben’s a franchise cornerstone, but right now, it’s about supporting him physically and mentally to get back on the floor and coaching the group to put his best foot forward in the first few games of the series at least,” he said. “Internally, we’re not sitting here saying Ben’s returning in this series. We’ll see what happens.”