After jogging and shooting without back pain for over a week, the Brooklyn Nets star Ben Simmons He is expected to take the next step on the ground next week and begin training against his teammates on the field, sources told ESPN Saturday.
His continued progress bolsters hope that Simmons can make his season debut sometime later in the opening round of the playoff series in Brooklyn against the Boston Celtics, sources said. The Nets and Celtics meet in Game One on Sunday in Boston.
So far, the Simmons have been limited to 1-on-0 drills, but that’s about to change and the Nets remain hopeful of getting something out of Simmons in the series, even if it’s only 10 to 15 minutes into the game, sources said.
Simmons was “still on his solo program” on Saturday, according to Brooklyn coach Steve Nash, who said he believes contact practices are Simmons’ next step.
“I would have assumed,” Nash said. “That’s not my job in terms of rehab and all that, but obviously to play in an NBA game, you have to have some contact and play the game a little bit.”
Simmons seemed to be in good spirits after training on Saturday. He asked a reporter to make sure his video was being played, and then proceeded to put out an immersion.
“Here you are,” Simmons said as he made his way off the ground.
Simmons had an epidural in mid-March to subdue the pain and irritation associated with a herniated disc in his lower back.
“I think he’s clearly getting better,” Nash said. “But I have no idea if he’s even close to playing or not.”
His fellow Simmons take the same approach as Nash – they’ll be happy if Simmons appears at some point in the series, but they prepare as if he won’t be there.
“Obviously his comeback would be very big for our team if we were all on the same page,” said Andre Drummond, Nets quarterback. “Ben is a very good basketball player. So if he gets him back, that’s great. If not, we still have to keep him and play the game we know.”
The Nets acquired Simmons in a massive deal with the Philadelphia 76ers at the February trading deadline, but he has yet to play an NBA game since the Eastern Conference Finals in June. Simmons wanted to trade outside of Philadelphia, and ultimately did not cite his mental health.
Simmons, 25, is a three-time All-Star pick and a two-time defensive first team.
Information from ESPN’s Nick Friedel was used in this report.
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