Nets' Ben Simmons prepares to return with contact work, learning plays
BOSTON — After participating in full-contact four-on-four workouts Monday Ben Simmons joined his teammates for running through scripted plays with teammates Tuesday and again at Wednesday’s morning shootaround before remaining behind for more contact work after the others were done.
The contact is important, but so too are the walk-throughs with his teammates, learning the plays and where players will be on the court. Simmons is preparing for his first game action since last year’s playoffs.
He was a Philadelphia 76er then and has no played on minute of game action with the Nets since the trade deadline deal that brought him to Brooklyn in February. So while his health may be the most pressing concern, getting acclimated to his teammates in these practice sessions might be nearly as important.
“Yeah I think that’s a component of it,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “If he’s able to play at some point, having him kind of become as familiar as possible with what we’re doing, because things change from day-to-day. You’re making adjustments, so having him be involved with all of that stuff, so if he is able to play at some point, he’s comfortable.”
Simmons has been sidelined by various mental and physical hurdles, a back issue the latest problem. While he has been cleared for this workload in practice by the Nets doctors, Nash said that the final step of a return is up to Simmons. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that sources indicated he was planning on a Game 4 debut.
“That’s news to me,” Nash said. “I don’t think we’re targeting any game. I think we’re trying to see how he develops, how he progresses, and this is something that since the recent history with the trade has not been straightforward. While it’s exciting to see him on the floor and to see him make progress, I don’t think any of us are saying it’s imminent. I think we’re going to sit back and support him and see how far he gets, and if he’s able to play, that’d be great, but we haven’t penciled in anything, we haven’t made any conclusions yet. I think he’s got a long ways to go before he feels ready to play.”
The Nets are scheduled for an off-day Thursday and Nash has targeted Friday as another practice test.
“There’s no other way than him to say I’m ready, especially after an absence this long,” Nash said. “So whenever he is ready, it’s going to have to be on him to say: ‘I feel comfortable. I feel ready to go. I want to play. I want to contribute.’ We can’t push him places when you have been out this long. It’s got to be something where he’s definitely comfortable and ready to play.
“I think it’s more of a collective decision. I think they understand it’s bigger than just a linear equation. This has been a prolonged absence. So I think it’s more about they’re in this together trying to find a resolution, a time for him to come back where he is safe to play and well enough to contribute.”
Claxton improving in postseason
Nic Claxton had 13 points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes in Game 1 after putting up 13 and nine in 29 minutes in the play-in game against Cleveland. It is a marked improvement from his playoff contributions last season as a rookie when he averaged 13.1 minutes against Boston and 9.1 minutes against Milwaukee, He averaged just 2.5 points and 2.8 rebounds over the 12 games.
“Last year, I got shrunk,” he said. “Honestly, I feel like I got shrunk. I came out and I wasn't ready for the physicality of the playoffs. I didn’t know what to expect. But you know, this is a new year. And like I said before, I used my experience from last year. And this year, I'm just hooping.”