Brooklyn Nets forward Ben Simmons’ pain-free progress is fueling hope that he could return in the first-round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, even if it’s just in a 10-15 minute a game role, sources told ESPN on Sunday.
The Nets would need to advance out of the Play-in Tournament this week and, given continued progress with his back, the hope would be that Simmons could possibly be cleared to play later in a first-round playoff series.
Simmons has yet to play a game for the Nets. He had a previous back injury flare up while he tried to ramp up his conditioning to debut with the Nets. Simmons, who hadn’t played since June of last year with the Philadelphia 76ers, received an epidural injection to treat a herniated disk in his back last month. Simmons’ back issue and relevant scans were disclosed during the trade discussions and did not pose any significant long-term issues for the Nets at the time, sources said.
The injury first affected Simmons during the spring of the pandemic-interrupted 2020 season. He also reported discomfort in his back upon reporting to Sixers’ training camp in October. The injury was assessed and treated by Philadelphia’s team doctors, and he was cleared to resume basketball activities shortly thereafter. That period was the only time Philadelphia did not find Simmons in breach of his contract this season, sources said.