The Brooklyn Nets have won three straight games, including an impressive 29-point win over the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Arena. Ben Simmons was in attendance as his new team took the air out of the arena, quieting Philly fans who came in eager to boo their former star. Since acquiring Simmons from the 76ers at the Feb. 10 trade deadline, the All-Defensive guard has been dealing with back stiffness and has yet to make his Brooklyn debut.
The Nets still don't have a definitive timeline for Simmons' return, but they're extremely confident he'll be back before the regular season ends, per head coach Steve Nash, who also said Simmons won't travel to face the Magic on Tuesday night in Orlando.
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The last time Simmons played in an NBA game was Game 7 of the Sixers' second-round series against the Atlanta Hawks on June 20. In a recent interview with YES Network's Michael Grady, Nets general manager Sean Marks said that they hope he'll be able to begin ramping up his return-to-play program soon.
"Unfortunately his back stiffness has delayed his ability to get on the court with his teammates. so he's been rehabbing this last sort of week to 10 days," Marks said. "And then now he'll progress throughout this week with some individual [work]. Hopefully, by the end of next week he's getting more into the team environment, and then we can really ramp up and start him getting into sort of game shape and so forth.
"Although there's no real timetable, we've got to take it day by day and see how he responds. And hopefully sooner the better. We need to get this group together and get minutes together on the court."
This jibes with what Nash said before Brooklyn hosted the Toronto Raptors (and shortly before Nash was placed in health and safety protocols). "He's just doing some light shooting and just physical therapy," Nash said, describing Simmons' back issue as a "little flare-up." In general, before the Nets clear a player to return from a lengthy absence, he must complete three high-intensity workouts (i.e. full-contact, 5-on-5 scrimmages).
While Simmons has yet to resume practices with the Nets, they are winning games, which will further solidify their chances at retaining one of the East's play-in spots. Entering Tuesday, they trail the seventh-place Toronto Raptors by three games and lead 11th-place Washington Wizards by five games.