The Boston Celtics soon might become the first team to face the full, new-look Brooklyn Nets.
Ben Simmons has yet to suit up for the Nets since joining Brooklyn in a midseason trade that sent James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers. The 25-year-old guard has been dealing with a back injury.
But Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Tuesday on the “Pat McAfee Show” that Simmons is “very, very confident” he’ll return at some point during the Nets’ first-round playoff series against the Celtics — assuming Brooklyn takes care of business in its play-in game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I think Games 1 and 2 in Boston is too quick, but I definitely think after that is when the window for Ben Simmons to return starts opening up,” Charania said. “Even if he’s able to give them 15 minutes or 20 minutes, that’s a game-changer, because that’s a guy that automatically you can put on the other team’s best player, he can move the ball, he can rebound, a lot can happen. So that is a potential game-changer if Ben Simmons returns.”
Simmons also didn’t play for the Sixers this season before the February blockbuster between Philadelphia and Brooklyn, as he requested a trade away from the City of Brotherly Love. And the three-time NBA All-Star still might have a few hurdles to clear before returning to game action against the Celtics.
As such, it’s difficult to project when exactly he’ll play, let alone how he’ll perform. There could be both rust and a tough transition period as Simmons gets acclimated alongside Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Co. It doesn’t help Brooklyn, either, that Boston boasts the NBA’s top defense and an offense that has come a long way since the beginning of the season.
Simmons might thrive. Or he could flop. He’s a total wild card at this point, although the Nets surely would prefer to have him in their lineup rather than watching from the sideline.