CHARLOTTE, NC — While it remains to be seen when the Brooklyn Nets’ newest player will make his season debut as he continues to deal with a back injury, Nets coach Steve Nash said that Ben Simmons he will join his new team in Philadelphia on Wednesday and sit on the bench with them during Thursday’s game.
Simmons, who was acquired from the Sixers last month along with Andrew Drummond, Seth Curry and two future first-round picks in exchange for the All-Star point guard james harden and Paul Millsap, was roundly booed Thursday after requesting a trade from the Sixers after last season, citing mental health issues. Nash was quick with his response Tuesday, when asked if he thought it would be good for Simmons to be in that environment in Philadelphia.
“It’s great,” Nash said. “He’s on our team, he needs to be with his teammates and shake off the whole Philly thing a little bit. It might never go away, but the first time around it’s always good to deal with it and move on.”
Nash said he’d be “happy to talk” with Simmons about the reception he hopes to get, but he’s confident the 25-year-old former All-Star knows what’s coming.
“I don’t think he’s naive to think he’s not going to get some boos,” Nash said. “I hope you enjoy it. It’s a part of the game that I miss.”
As for when Simmons might play again, that’s a question that doesn’t yet have a clear answer. Simmons was optimistic about playing in Philadelphia during his introductory news conference, but he has been dealing with back pain for the past week and a half as he tries to get ready to play for the first time in more than nine months. Simmons has not yet been cleared to practice and it is unclear when he will be able to do so.
The Nets’ next formal practice is scheduled for Saturday in Brooklyn.
“It remains to be determined,” Nash said. “I think he’s making progress this week, but I don’t know what that means until Saturday. He’ll see us [el miércoles] in Philadelphia. I don’t think he’s ready for 5-on-5 basketball, but he’s getting better, working out, and he’s going to join us in Philly.”
The veteran guard of the Nets, goran dragicHe knows the atmosphere in Philly will likely be intense, but he doesn’t think Simmons will have a problem with it.
“It’s probably not going to be pretty,” Dragic said. “Same as in Toronto [para mí], But it is what it is. We are all professional athletes. At the end of the day, it’s just boos, so you just go out and play and try to do your best. But as long as it’s nothing serious, no throwing things and it’s just verbal, I don’t care.”
Drummond echoed a similar sentiment regarding being back in Philly.
“It’s going to be a playoff-like atmosphere,” Drummond said. “I think based on the trade and us playing them again and obviously with the Ben situation, they’re two teams that have a good chance of seeing each other in the Eastern Conference finals. So it’s going to be a good game.”
Drummond believes he will play a little more than usual in the next few games given that Nash said the center LaMarcus Aldridge he’ll be out at least the next two games after undergoing an MRI on his hip. The Nets enter Tuesday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets with a 32-33 record, tied with the Hornets in eighth place in the Eastern Conference; they have lost 17 of their last 20 games.
Despite what’s going on in the standings, Nash knows much of Thursday’s focus will be on Simmons’ return to Philadelphia.
“The first time you go back to any city after a change it’s always a little bit different and awkward,” Nash said. “And obviously there’s a story there, so it is what it is, he’ll be fine. He’s a big guy and he’s excited to join our team and all of that. He wants to be out there on the bench with his teammates.”
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Nets: Simmons benched for game in Philadelphia