Ben Simmons targeting 1st-round return for Nets debut vs. Celtics

Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons/Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

It appears as though Ben Simmons will be making his Brooklyn Nets debut this season, after all — and at a pretty opportune time, too.

Shams Charania of The Athletic reported on Wednesday that the All-Star guard is “targeting” a return to action — which would be his Nets debut — between Games 4 and 6, scheduled between April 25-29, of Brooklyn’s first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics.

Simmons has not appeared in a game this season, which he began with the Philadelphia 76ers. But refused to take the court after summer trade demands went without being met and though he rejoined the Sixers just days before the start of the regular season, he admitted he wasn’t mentally ready to take the floor.

He did finally get his wish in February when Philadelphia shipped him to Brooklyn in a blockbuster deal that saw James Harden head to the City of Brotherly Love.

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While he finally got the change of scenery that he had been so desperately craving, Simmons has been sidelined due to a back injury.

The 25-year-old has been at Nets facilities training, but he has yet to participate in 5-on-5 practices. Even his head coach, Steve Nash, isn’t all that confident that he’ll get Simmons back against Boston.

“It’s up to Ben’s — [his] back. It’s not up to me or any of us other than his back and how we can help that,” Nash said. “There’s a chance Ben comes back, there’s a chance he doesn’t come back. For us, we have to focus on the group and support Ben in his journey to get back but at the same time, we don’t have time to lose focus on the group that’s playing.

“Ben’s a franchise cornerstone. Right now, it’s about supporting him physically and mentally to getting him back on the floor… Internally, we’re not sitting here saying Ben is returning. We’ll see what happens in the series.”

Brooklyn, who defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Play-In Tournament earlier this week to clinch the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, begins its series with the Celtics on Sunday.