After almost a full year off the court, Ben Simmons is ready to return.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Simmons plans to make his long-awaited Brooklyn Nets debut next week when they face the Boston Celtics in Game 4.
Brooklyn Nets three-time All-Star Ben Simmons plans to make his season debut in Game 4 vs. Boston on Monday as long as rehab remains on course, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Simmons is set to play his first game since June 2021.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 21, 2022
Simmons, 25, has been on the Nets since February, but has been hampered by a recurring back injury and his decision to sit out the season when he was still on the Philadelphia 76ers. Following the blockbuster trade that brought Simmons to Brooklyn and sent James Harden to Philly, Simmons had to ramp up after spending nearly five months of the regular season on the bench, but his back injury slowed him down.
Ben Simmons hasn't played for 10 months
The last time Simmons stepped onto an NBA court was June 20, 2021, when he was still playing for the Sixers. That date was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks, which the Sixers lost 103-96. Following the game, Simmons was criticized by teammate Joel Embiid and head coach Doc Rivers for making just four shots in the entire game and passing up a critical open dunk late in the contest.
That opened up a canyon between Simmons and the Sixers that was never bridged. Simmons reportedly vowed to never play a single game for Philly again and requested a trade. When one didn't materialize before training camp, Simmons simply didn't show up. He eventually arrived at the Sixers' stadium unannounced, but that didn't signal that he was ready to play for them again. His back injury, coupled with Simmons' announcement to the team that he didn't feel mentally ready to play, kept him off the court.
Nets in must-win situation
Simmons didn't play for the Sixers again before the trade. But now that his rehab is complete and he's ready to play, he's entering a stressful and borderline desperate situation with the Nets. The Celtics won the first two games of their playoff series by a combined eight points, and now the Nets are staring down the barrel of a possible 0-3 series deficit if they lose Game 3 on Saturday.
Game 3 is a must-win for the Nets, because if they don't, Simmons will be making his debut in an elimination game. The Nets are already in dicey territory with trying to incorporate a new player in a playoff game, but doing that in an elimination game would put a microscope the size of Montana on both Simmons and the team. They're going for broke to get themselves back into this series, but if they lose Game 4 and possibly get eliminated, the decision to bring back Simmons will be debated until the Earth explodes.