Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons holds the ball during a...

Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons holds the ball during a timeout in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets at Barclays Center on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Ben Simmons had some lighthearted fun with reporters Saturday in the Nets’ final practice before traveling to Boston to open their first-round playoff series against the Celtics on Sunday.

Simmons has not been practicing with the team but apparently has been shooting. Shortly after members of the media were allowed in for the final 10 minutes of the workout, Simmons turned toward reporters and said, “Make sure you get this.” He then dunked the ball and smiled.

Simmons’ status for the playoffs continues to be a mystery, though it is looking more and more likely as if he might make an appearance sometime in this series.

Currently, according to coach Steve Nash, he is still doing 0-on-1 workouts (without other players). ESPN reported Saturday morning, however, that Simmons is expected to begin practicing with his teammates in the coming week and that the team hopes it can get 10 to 15 minutes a game out of him sometime in the series against the Celtics.

Nash said he believes that contact practices will be the next step.

“I would presume,” he said. “That’s not my job as far as the rehab and all that, but clearly to play in an NBA game, you got to have some contact and play the game a little bit.”

Simmons, who was acquired from the 76ers in the James Harden deal right before the trade deadline, has not played in an NBA game since the playoffs a year ago, when he was a member of the 76ers.

He refused to play for Philadelphia at the beginning of the season as he wanted to be traded. After the trade, he injured his back while ramping up to play for the Nets.

Simmons had an epidural shot in mid-March to help with the pain and irritation associated with a herniated disc in his lower back. He reportedly has been running and shooting without pain for a full week, though Nash characterized his running as “not a sprint.”

Simmons has not been made available to speak with the media since shortly after the trade.

“I think clearly he’s improving,” Nash said. “But I have no idea if he’s getting close to playing or not.”

Simmons, 25, is a three-time All-Star and two-time All-Defensive first-team selection. His healthy return could be a game- changer for the Nets in their effort to slow Jayson Tatum and the Celtics. Simmons averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists last season.

“Having him back obviously would be very big for our team if we’re all on the same page,” center Andre Drummond said. “Ben is a very good basketball player. So if we got him back, great. If not, we still got to hold it down and play the game that we know.”

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