After all signs appeared to be leading to Ben Simmons making his season and Brooklyn Nets debut in Game 4 against the Boston Celtics, the Nets have listed Simmons as out for Monday's potential elimination game. Simmons played 4-on-4 last week for the first time since the Nets acquired him at the trade deadline, and head coach Steve Nash indicated that Simmons had continued to take contact without any issues.
But apparently Simmons woke up with back soreness Sunday morning after going through a workout prior to Game 3 on Saturday, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, who added this:
After approximately 10 days of pain-free ramp up following recovery from a herniated disc, Simmons' admission at the team practice facility was met with surprise and disappointment. On the brink of a sweep to the Celtics, the Nets had hoped Simmons would be in uniform and active with the hope of coach Steve Nash using him in limited minutes, sources said.
Wojnarowski added more on Monday, reporting that "both (the Nets and Simmons camp) believe Simmons had two good weeks of physical ramp-up through Sunday, but ultimately realized there are still mental and physical hurdles that need addressing." The report also said that Simmons' agent Rich Paul and Nets GM Sean Marks met on Monday to discuss the situation.
Simmons reiterated desire to play for Nets and sides talked on how they’ll work together to try and get there. Both groups believe Simmons had two good weeks of physical ramp-up thru Sunday, but ultimately realized there are still mental and physical hurdles that need addressing.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 25, 2022
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The Nets did not do Simmons any favors here from a PR standpoint. Delivering this news as another surprise injury report after a week of saying he was progressing to play puts the target right back on Simmons. Just say it's because it doesn't make sense to throw Simmons back on the court after 10 months off in a potential elimination game of a series that is all but over.
Because that's the truth. There might be more than that going on, but that's at least one element of this decision, so take the heat off Simmons and report it that way rather than saying the team was "surprised" the hear Simmons' back was hurting. People are already questioning the validity of Simmons' claims. Why stoke that fire?
Simmons' desire to actually play basketball again, when weighed in conjunction with his mental health, is going to be a major story over the offseason, but for right now, whatever the reason, this is a logical decision to sit him for Game 4. The series is over. Allow him to hopefully come back completely fresh, mentally and physically, for training camp and the start of next season, when Brooklyn can hopefully see some return on the massive investment it made in Simmons.