Ben Simmons targets Game 4 debut with Nets

If Ben Simmons avoids setbacks, the Brooklyn Nets expect him to be available for Monday’s Game 4 of the first-round NBA playoff series against the Boston Celtics in New York.

It would be the Australian’s debut with the Nets and his first game since June 2021 in the playoffs when he was playing for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Simmons sat out the first part of the season in a dispute with the 76ers. Since a trade-deadline deal to the Nets in February, he hasn’t played because of a back injury.

But ESPN has reported that Simmons could potentially even be cleared to play Saturday in Game 3, based on the Nets’ policy for injured players that requires three contact practice sessions before playing in a game.

Simmons held up to contact on Monday, head coach Steve Nash said, and was expected to participate in a contact workout and play 4-on-4 on Wednesday.

“I wouldn’t be able to say anything about (Game 3 availability),” Nash said.

“We have to also consider it’s a nine-month absence or whatever it is, so it’s not just like he had a six-week absence, so I think this is a pretty unique scenario. It’s not as linear as maybe the other kind of in-season injuries.”

Nash said he believes Simmons can “physically adapt” to live action. Being assured he’s otherwise ready is also part of the equation.

Durant said he heard “good reports” on Simmons. However, he wants to see him in the full team environment at practices before making any assessment on Simmons’ readiness.

Durant noted he “didn’t really see him explode or play against anybody” in Monday’s workout.

Simmons is spending time daily with shooting coach Kyle Korver to improve his range and touch, Nash said.

In four previous seasons, Simmons has five career 3-pointers and 34 attempts, which underscores the idea that he’s not the typical NBA guard.

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