Ben Simmons To Practice, Nets Remain Hopeful He’ll Play vs. Celtics

Nets newcomer Ben Simmons is expected take part in practices with teammates this week, signifying steps toward a season debut, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.Ben Simmons

Simmons has been out with a lower back issue since being acquired from the James Harden trade with the 76ers in February. But he has been “running and shooting pain-free” for more than a week, Wojnarowski added.

The Nets face the Celtics in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, and Brooklyn is hopeful Simmons can debut sometime before the series ends, per Wojnarowski. Game 1 is Sunday at 3:30 p.m. EST.

“It’s up to Ben’s back,” Nets coach Steve Nash recently told reporters. “It’s not up to me, any of us, other than his back — and how we can help that resolve, great. There’s a chance Ben comes back, there’s a chance he doesn’t come back. So I think for us we 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.

“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 its best foot forward in the first few games of the series at least. Internally, we’re not sitting here saying ‘Ben’s returning in this series.’ We’ll see what happens.”

Nets star Kevin Durant said he is taking the approach that Simmons won’t play.

“I’m not putting any pressure on Ben to come out there and hoop,” Durant said. “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.”

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