For the Nets, the deal represented the end of the James Harden era, one that was summarized by what-ifs and ended with the All-Star holding the team hostage. For Simmons, the move to Brooklyn marked the conclusion of a tumultuous tenure with the Philadelphia 76ers, marred by the point guard’s trade demands and mental health concerns and worsened by a hostile Philadelphia fan base.
Simmons joined Brooklyn on Feb. 10, mere hours before the trade deadline. Now it’s Mar. 2, and Simmons still hasn’t suited up for his new team. Worse yet, his latest update is further confirmation the Nets just can’t catch a break.
Ben Simmons is now ‘week-to-week’
Considering Simmons has intentionally sat out the season, it’s understandable that he would need some time to ramp up activity and get into game shape. His initial target date was Mar. 10, setting him up for a revenge game against, you guessed it, the 76ers.
However, his return was put on the backburner after suffering through back soreness during his workouts. Now, the Mar. 10 plans are officially scrapped.
During Tuesday’s episode of SportsNation on ESPN+, NBA insider Brian Windhorst offered a deeply concerning update on Simmons. Spoiler alert: It’s not good.
“Rich Paul, Ben’s agent, told me over the weekend that Ben is now considered ‘week-to-week.’ He’s frankly not close. I don’t even know if he’s going to be back in March.”Brian Windhorst
Windhorst’s report falls in line with head coach Steve Nash’s Monday update. The Hall of Famer told ESPN and others that the three-time All-Star will skip practice this week.
“He’s just doing some light shooting and just physical therapy,” Nash said. “Just making sure that he gets that back 100%, just that little flare-up, and while he does shooting and his reconditioning stuff that he’s able to do while that thing settles down.”
Simmons’ injury is just another bad break for the unlucky Nets
Former New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra had a way with words. One of his more famous “Yogi-isms” was the line, “It’s déjà vu all over again,” said in reference to former teammates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris hitting back-to-back home runs for the Yanks of the ’60s.
Yogi’s words from the Bronx now apply to the Nets in Brooklyn. After experiencing too many injuries and ailments to count, Simmons’ back soreness is just “déjà vu all over again” for the luckless Nets.
The Nets have already been playing without Kevin Durant and Joe Harris. Durant sprained his MCL on Jan. 15, missing Brooklyn’s last 21 games. Without KD, Brooklyn has gone from 27-15 to 32-31. Meanwhile, the sharpshooter Harris still doesn’t have a timetable for his return after injuring his ankle on Nov. 14.
That’s not counting Kyrie Irving, who’s been playing exclusively on the road since making his debut on Jan. 5.
In total, only four players have suited up for 50 or more of Brooklyn’s 63 contests. Only one (Patty Mills, 62) has played more than 54 games.
Injury issues (along with Kyrie’s vaccine refusal) kept the Durant-Irving-Harden trio from playing more than 16 games together. The Nets wouldn’t be out of order to start worrying that the Durant-Irving-Simmons trio will suffer a similar fate.
The Nets can’t afford to wait much longer for Simmons to make his debut
At 32-31, the Nets’ chances of winning the East are all but shot. Brooklyn holds a 1.5-game lead for the eight-seed but sits nine games back of the top-seed Miami Heat.
A big reason why is Durant’s absence, during which Brooklyn went 5-16. However, the superstar is making his comeback Thursday against Miami.
But KD’s return still doesn’t solve the Simmons problem.
It’s one thing the 2016 first-overall pick hasn’t suited up since last year’s controversial Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Atlanta Hawks. But when he does take the court again, he’ll do so with a brand new team and new superstar teammates.
Building chemistry takes time. There’s no guarantee Brooklyn will thrive the way it did when Harden joined Kyrie and KD (at least in those 16 games). So the last thing the team needs is Simmons coming back just days before the postseason, which at this rate will be a highly-important play-in round game.
Obviously, you don’t want to put Simmons on the court if he’s not healthy. But the less time he has to form chemistry with his new Nets teammates, the harder it will be for Brooklyn to overcome its playoff demons.
Then it will really be déjà vu all over again.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.