BOSTON — Brooklyn Nets swingman Ben Simmons continues “progressing and moving forward” in his rehab from a herniated disk in his back, but it’ll be up to the former All-Star whether he plays in the first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics, coach Steve Nash said.
Nash remained noncommittal on a timeline for any potential return for Simmons. The Nets trail 1-0 entering Game 2 of the Eastern Conference first-round series on Wednesday night.
“There’s no other way than him to say, ‘I’m ready,'” Nash said after Wednesday’s shootaround. “Especially after an absence this long. So whenever he is ready, it’s going to have to be on him to say, ‘I feel comfortable. I feel ready to go. I want to play and I want to contribute.’
“We can’t push him places when you have been out this long. It’s got to be something where he is definitely comfortable and ready to play.”
Simmons has not played for the Nets since being acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers just before February’s trade deadline, and he has not played in an NBA game since last May after requesting a trade from the Sixers, citing mental health concerns. He was cleared for contact Monday and has been getting in some 4-on-4 work with teammates.
Nash said he would get another workout in before Wednesday’s game.
“He’s coming along pretty good,” Nets center Nic Claxton said of Simmons. “He definitely has a real good swagger about himself right now. So I think the whole world is ready to see him back out there, and he will definitely help us out in a lot of ways.”
Nash said that while Simmons needs to feel comfortable enough to play, the training staff also needs to see enough to feel comfortable for him to start competing in games again.
“I think it’s more of a collective decision,” Nash said. “I think they understand that it’s bigger than just a linear equation. This has been a prolonged absence. So I think it’s more, they’re in this together, trying to find a resolution and a time frame to come back where he is safe to play and well enough to contribute.”
In the short term, the Nets remain hopeful that he continues to pick up as much as he can on and off the floor through workouts and film sessions.
“If he’s able to play at some point, having him kind of become as familiar as possible with what we’re doing, because those things change day to day,” Nash said. “You’re making adjustments — and so having him be involved in all that stuff, so if he is able to play at some point, he’s comfortable.”