Of course, Durant would love to see Simmons suit up. But while Durant is hopeful that Simmons can take the court, he’s preparing if Simmons won’t.
“I’m not expecting him to play,” Durant told reporters. “That’s easier for me. I’m not putting any pressure on Ben to come out there and hoop. 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.”
Simmons has been suffering a back issue since the James Harden trade with the 76ers. He reportedly has been working out alone, but not in any sort of team setting. As the coaches like to say, Simmons has only been going “1-on-0.”
If a guy is unable to go through a full practice, it’s hard to see him playing in a game. The Nets may have no choice but to give Simmons the offseason to heal.
“It’s up to Ben’s back,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “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.”
Game 1 between the Nets and Celtics, in Boston, is scheduled for Sunday at 3:30 p.m. EST.