- Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.
BOSTON — Brooklyn Nets swingman Ben Simmons has been cleared for contact as he continues to make his way back from a back injury that has prevented him from playing since he was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers just before February’s trade deadline.
Nets head coach Steve Nash ruled Simmons out of Wednesday’s Game 2, but he left the door open for Simmons’ return at some point in Brooklyn’s first-round series against the Boston Celtics.
“He’s making progress,” Nash said after Tuesday’s practice. “We’ll just see how he responds and see if he’s able to do more contact [Wednesday].”
Nash said that Simmons’ first day of contact was actually during a Monday workout when he was able to play 4-on-4 with some of his teammates.
“So far, so good,” Nash said of how Simmons came through the workout. “I think he managed yesterday’s activity well.”
Simmons spent much of his post-practice time that the media was able to see on Tuesday working with Nets shooting instructor Kyle Korver on his form. When asked specifically if there was a chance Simmons might be able to play in Saturday’s Game 3, Nash was noncommittal about the possibility.
“I wouldn’t be able to say anything about that because I’m not even sure how he’s going to get through these weeks,” Nash said. “We have to also consider it’s a nine-month absence or whatever it is, so it’s not just like he had a six-week absence, so I think this is a pretty unique scenario. It’s not as linear as maybe the other kind of in-season injuries.”
Simmons has not played since last May after requesting a trade from the Sixers in the offseason, citing mental health concerns. As far as the next possible hurdles to clear, Nash said being able to play in a full 5-on-5 scrimmage probably wasn’t going to be possible given how deep the Nets are into the season and the need to give veteran players a break on the days between games.
“He’s probably not going to do 5-on-5 because we don’t have 10 guys,” Nash said. “It will probably be 4-on-4 again — so it’s really trying to put him in an environment where he can start to build up and see if he can take contact, see if he can run the floor, make cuts, rebound, defend, all those things. He’s got to have time on the floor to do, to see if he can physically adapt, and that process is only just beginning.”
Tuesday’s practice served as more of a walk-through, with Nash saying that Simmons went through some 5-0 drills while going through some plays. Nets star Kevin Durant said he “didn’t really see him explode or play against anybody” but noted he’s “been hearing good reports” about Simmons’ progress.
“I didn’t hear any setbacks,” Durant said. “That’s pretty much what I’m looking for [when] somebody on our team goes through anything while they’re playing in the stay-ready groups or pre-practice groups if anybody got injured or anything. So I haven’t heard … he’s probably progressing pretty well, so we’ll see.”
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