Since the Brooklyn Nets acquired Ben Simmons, the three-time All-Star has yet to suit up for his new team. He has stumbled through his on-court work to return as a herniated disk in his back has prevented him from making any substantial progress.
Head coach Steve Nash dumped more cold water on the situation by voicing that Simmons won’t play in the remaining regular season or the play-in tournament. All that points to the Nets needing to face the truth that shutting down the star point guard is the move to make.
Steve Nash says Ben Simmons won’t play in the regular season
The Nets have kept close tabs on Simmons’ on-court work, but that hasn’t translated to any meaningful progress.
Brooklyn initially circled the March 18 game against the Portland Trail Blazers for his long-awaited debut. However, that became out of the picture due to multiple setbacks. Simmons suffered a back injury that hasn’t allowed him to ramp up his conditioning to warrant a return date.
The Nets remain unrealistically optimistic that Simmons will play despite the utter lack of progress in his recovery. Meanwhile, head coach Steve Nash finally admitted on Monday that Simmons wouldn’t play for the remainder of the regular season or the play-in tournament.
“I mean that’s a big progression just to get here,” Nash said via ESPN. “So he was doing nothing on the floor. But obviously he clearly started strengthening and doing some light shooting. So super positive on one hand; on the other hand, it’s not like … we’re expecting him in the lineup in the next week.”
The Nets haven’t ruled him out for the rest of the year, but all signs point to that eventually becoming the case.
Nets must finally face the disappointing reality by officially shutting down Ben Simmons
The Nets continue to dance around Simmons’ recovery without placing a definitive answer on a potential return window.
The lack of progression in his rehab is a telling sign that he isn’t anywhere near ready to get back onto the floor. On top of that, Nash’s inability to confidently say Simmons could play in a possible first-round playoff series speaks volumes.
“We’ll see,” Nash said. “I don’t want to get too far down the road, like, I don’t want to walk through the next five weeks with you guys and guessing — you guys saw where he is today. He’s doing some increased strengthening, some increased mobility stuff, a little bit of shooting and that’s it.”
The Nets are keeping all their doors open, but Simmons is running out of time. The organization is treading lightly given the sensitivity of the injury, but the writing is on the wall. He isn’t ready, and he likely won’t be to play for the rest of the season.
Brooklyn doesn’t want to face the harsh truth that Simmons’ debut won’t happen until the 2022-23 campaign. Although the Nets could possibly move up to the seventh seed, their fate is locked into the play-in tournament. The team must trek forward as if Simmons won’t play until next season.
Brooklyn must look at the long-term picture
The 2021-22 season hasn’t played out anywhere near close to what the Nets envisioned.
James Harden is gone. Kevin Durant missed an extended stretch due to injury, and Kyrie Irving’s firm COVID-19 vaccine stance cost him most of the season. Despite those circumstances, Brooklyn still holds a chance to make it out of the play-in tournament to push toward an NBA title.
However, the Nets must look at the long-term picture as a championship push looks daunting at best. Simmons will be a part of the bigger puzzle, and risking any potential health issues would be foolish.
Meanwhile, the team must get Kyrie Irving to sign a long-term extension. He holds a $36.5 million player option for the 2022-23 campaign. Irving has voiced that he wants to remain alongside Kevin Durant for the long haul, but the star guard has expressed public commitment in the past to the Boston Celtics and didn’t follow through.
If the Nets want to keep their championship window open for years down the line, getting Irving re-signed sits atop the list. All in all, Brooklyn should remain mindful of the bigger picture and not become short-sighted.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.