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Ben Simmons is back. With the Nets down 2-0 to the Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Simmons is expected to make his return and Brooklyn debut in Game 4 Monday at the Barclays Center.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi first reported Wednesday that Game 4 was being targeted as a realistic return date for Simmons, who hasn’t played in a game since June 20, 2021.
Simmons, 25, requested a trade from the 76ers during the offseason and didn’t play when the season began, citing mental health issues. He was finally dealt to the Nets in February in a package that sent James Harden to Philadelphia.
Simmons has been recovering from a herniated disk in his lower back and was cleared Monday to get 4-on-4 work in with his teammates. Head coach Steve Nash said Wednesday that they weren’t going to rush Simmons back.
“There’s no other way than him to say, ‘I’m ready,’” Nash said. “Especially after an absence this long. So whenever he is ready, it’s going to have to be on him to say, ‘I feel comfortable. I feel ready to go. I want to play and I want to contribute.’
“We can’t push him places when you have been out this long. It’s got to be something where he is definitely comfortable and ready to play.”
Whatever the case, Brooklyn could certainly use its pass-first, defensive ace point guard, after the team blew a lead to Boston in Game 2 Wednesday night. Nets forward Kevin Durant went cold from the field in the second half, and the Celtics ultimately defeated the Nets, 114-107.
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