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NEW YORK — Ben Simmons says he’s pain free from his back injury and is pretty sure he can help the Brooklyn Nets, saying he’s “reasonably” expecting to play in Game 4 of the Nets’ series against the Boston Celtics.
Saturday’s Game 3 doesn’t seem too likely, though. The Nets are down 2-0, and he faces the possibility of making his debut in an elimination game.
“If I could play right now, I’d be on the court,” Simmons said at the Nets’ practice facility Friday. “I can’t tell you, definitely, Game 4, Game 3.”
Nets coach Steve Nash openly laughed at the possibility of Game 3, saying, “Tomorrow? I don’t think so. I think he’s supposed to have a workout tomorrow.”
Simmons called himself day-to-day to this point. He hasn’t played in nearly a year, the last being Game 7 of the Philadelphia 76ers’ second-round series against Atlanta last June. He was traded to Brooklyn at the trade deadline for James Harden, and admitted to frustration in not being able to play.
“It’s a good challenge. But now I’m looking forward to it,” Simmons said. “Especially playing with these guys. I think for me, my IQ’s so high to, you know, play the guys like Kai [Kyrie Irving] and Seth [Curry] and Kev [Kevin Durant]. Just watched them. I know how they play. I know how they want to play.”
He doesn’t know how many minutes he can give the Nets, and no one has given an indication of exactly where he fits, but his confidence is evident. He’s had three scrimmage days so far, and apparently the small sample size will be enough.
He said he got shots up Friday.
“I think we’ll be fine, personally,” Simmons said. “There’s some things on defense where, you know, I look at it, and I think I can make a big impact in terms of just being vocal on the floor and helping my teammates and being a leader on that side of the court.”
Dealing with this back injury isn’t unfamiliar to him, so he’s not concerned about the long-term prospects. He said doing pilates has become a constant through his career and he doesn’t want to rush the process just because he’s had a couple good days in a row.
There’s a return-to-play plan in place, he said, and he’ll be throwing himself in a situation with teammates he’s not familiar with — and them not being familiar with him.
That margin for error can be dangerously thin, so Nash isn’t putting a lot of weight or pressure in Simmons’ potential return.
“I don’t know,” Nash said when asked what he could expect to see. “Does anyone here have the answer to that? We’ll just be happy to have Ben playing. We’re not here sitting and counting the minutes until Ben’s back. If he’s ready, he’s ready. If he’s not, he’s not. We want him to play when he’s ready to play."