Nets’ Ben Simmons set to return with contact work and learning pieces
BOSTON — After taking part in full-contact four-on-four practices on Monday, Ben Simmons joined his teammates in going through scripted plays with his teammates on Tuesday and again in Wednesday’s morning shootout before staying behind for no more contact work once the others are done.
Contact is important, but so are meetings with teammates, learning the games and where the players will be on the pitch. Simmons is preparing for his first game since the playoffs last year.
He was a Philadelphia 76er then and hasn’t played a minute with the Nets since the trade deadline deal that brought him to Brooklyn in February. So while his health is the most pressing concern, getting acclimated to his teammates during these training sessions could be almost as important.
“Yeah, I think it’s an element,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “If he’s able to play at some point let him get as much familiarity as possible with what we’re doing because things change from day to day. You make adjustments so get him involved to all of that, so if he’s able to play at some point, he’s comfortable.
Simmons was sidelined by various mental and physical obstacles, with an earlier issue being the latest issue. While he was cleared for that workload in practice by Nets doctors, Nash said the final step in a comeback lay with Simmons. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Wednesday that sources have indicated he plans to make his Game 4 debut.
“That’s news to me,” Nash said. “I don’t think we’re aiming for a game. I think we’re trying to see how it develops, how it progresses, and that’s something that since recent history with the business hasn’t been easy. While it’s exciting to see him on the pitch and see him progress, I don’t think any of us are saying it’s imminent. I think we’ll sit down and support him and see how far he goes, and if he’s able to play that would be great, but we haven’t written anything, we haven’t drawn any conclusions yet. I think he still has a long way 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 such a long absence,” Nash said. “So whenever he’s ready, it’s going to have to be up to him to say, ‘I feel comfortable. I feel ready to leave. I want to play. I want to contribute.’ You can’t push it in places when you’ve been out that long. It has to be something he’s definitely comfortable with and ready to play.
“I think it’s more of a collective decision. I think they understand that it’s more than just a linear equation. It has been a prolonged absence. So I think it’s more about trying to find a solution together, a time for him to get back to where he’s safe to play and well enough to contribute.
Claxton improves in playoffs
Nic Claxton had 13 points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes in Game 1 after scoring 13 and nine in 29 minutes in the playoff against Cleveland. That’s a marked improvement over 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 shrunk,” he said. “Honestly, I feel like I’ve shrunk. I went out and I wasn’t ready for the playoff physique. I didn’t know what to expect. But you know, that’s news. year. And like I said before, I used my experience from last year. And this year, I’m just jumping.