Brooklyn Nets' Ben Simmons, center, sits on the bench during...

Brooklyn Nets' Ben Simmons, center, sits on the bench during the second half of Game 3 of a first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics, Saturday, April 23, 2022, in New York.  Credit: AP

Three days ago, it seemed as if there was a good chance that Ben Simmons would play his first game as a Net on Monday.

Instead, according to an ESPN report, Simmons and his agent, Rich Paul, met with Nets general manager Sean Marks to discuss how they will continue to work through his “mental and physical hurdles” and get him back on the court.

It was the latest confusing twist in the saga of the three-time All-Star. Simmons, whom the Nets acquired in the James Harden trade in February after he refused to play for the 76ers, hasn’t played a game for his new team because of a herniated disc.

The Nets have been painting a picture of Simmons slowly ramping up so he could join his teammates in their first-round playoff series against the Celtics. As late as Friday, Simmons indicated that he was hopeful that he would be able to play in Game 4.

Then, on Sunday, the Nets listed Simmons as “out” on their injury report. ESPN reported that a return of Simmons’ back soreness left the Nets “surprised and disappointed.”

Coach Steve Nash, however, didn’t sound all that surprised on Monday that Simmons was not going to suit up.

“I wasn’t really expecting him to play,” he said. “Like we’ve said all along, he’s trying to improve. He’s working through it. Reports that he was playing were from the outside.”

According to ESPN, Simmons reiterated his desire to play for the Nets in the meeting Monday. Both he and the Nets believed he had a good two weeks of ramp-up before suffering the setback. Both the Nets and Simmons ultimately realized that there still are mental and physical hurdles that need addressing before Simmons can get on the court, according to the ESPN report.

Simmons did not sit on the Nets’ bench for Game 4, as he had in the previous three playoff games. A team official said he was getting treatment for his back.

Simmons’ last game was played for the Philadelphia 76ers in the Game 7 loss to the Hawks in the second round of the playoffs last June. After his poor performance in that game, Philadelphia fans turned against him and the 25-year-old requested a trade.

In October, Simmons informed the 76ers that he wasn’t mentally ready to play and needed time. He has since filed a grievance against his former team to recoup the $20 million in salary the 76ers withheld from him.

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