Ben Simmons #10 of the Brooklyn Nets stands for the...

Ben Simmons #10 of the Brooklyn Nets stands for the singing of the national anthem before Game Two of the Eastern Conference First Round NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on April 20, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. Credit: Getty Images/Maddie Meyer

Ben Simmons is on the precipice of playing his first game as a Net, but apparently the earliest it could happen is Monday.

The Nets are down, 0-2, in their first-round series against the Celtics, and certainly could use a third All-Star in Game 3 Saturday at Barclays Center. It appears, however, that both the Nets and Simmons have circled Game 4 on Monday as the likely return date with Simmons saying Thursday that it was “reasonable” to think he would be back then.

“I feel close,” Simmons told reporters after practice. “It’s literally day to day. I've had plenty of great days, which has been great for me in building up. So we're just trying to put those great days together and just keep building up to get back on the floor and play at that high level.

“If I could play right now, I’d be on the court.”

Simmons hasn’t played in nearly a year with his last game being Game 7 of  Philadelphia’s second-round series against Atlanta last June.

Simmons did not play for the 76ers at the start of this season as he was demanding a trade. After coming to the Nets in the James Harden deal at the trade deadline, he injured his back while trying to ramp up into game shape.

 Over the past week, he scrimmaged three times and apparently the team wants him to have one more pain-free workout before putting him on the court.

Nets coach Steve Nash laughed when asked about the possibility of Simmons joining the team for Game 3. “Tomorrow? I don’t think so,” Nash said. “I think he’s supposed to have a workout tomorrow.”

The Nets, who lost the first two games of the series in Boston, certainly could use a versatile and defensive-minded, 6-10 ballhandler to facilitate more movement on offense and take some pressure off Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

The question is what kind of position will the Nets be in if he returns on Monday. Simmons is facing the possibility of returning for an elimination game.

“You are talking about ifs,” Simmons said when asked if he would still play if the Nets are in an 0-3 hole.

Neither Simmons nor Nash know how many minutes he will be able to give the team when he returns.

“I don’t know [what to expect from Simmons]. I can’t answer that,” Nash said. “Does anyone here have the answer? We would be happy to have Ben play and try to play, but only when he’s ready. If he’s not, he’s not. We’re not in here just counting down the minutes until Ben is back. We want Ben to play when he’s ready to play and he wants to make an impact.”

Simmons, however, does not sound worried about making his debut with the Nets in an important playoff game.

“It’s a good challenge but I’m looking forward especially playing with these guys,” Simmons said. “I think for me my IQ is so high to play with guys like Kyrie, Seth [Curry] and Kevin. Just watching them, I know how they play and how they want to play. For me to get them in their spots and be a floor general. It’s exciting and I’m looking forward to it.”

NOTES AND QUOTES: Celtics center Robert Williams III, who has been out since March 27 with a torn meniscus, is expected to play Saturday, ESPN reported…..The Nets' Patty Mills won the 2021-22 NBA Sportsmanship Award, narrowly beating out second-place finisher Jeff Green of the Denver Nuggets. 

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