The Brooklyn Nets just beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference play-in to book their playoff spot against the #2 seeded Boston Celtics. While the Nets will be the odd-on-favorite despite being the lower seed, they will also be missing a massive piece from their lineup.
Ben Simmons and his status to return to the court is a mystery that just isn't finding many answers. We know that he is dealing with a back injury. However, what we don't know is whether the injury will rule him out of the playoffs, as Brooklyn has been very coy in sharing that answer.
ESPN analyst Nick Friedell has thoughts on the Simmons situation and believes that all the signs are pointing toward Simmons not playing this season due to all the steps he still has to complete before being cleared to play.
"You ask Steve Nash, he says we're still hopeful we will put Ben in there whenever he is physically ready to play. Ask his teammates and they'll say, we haven't seen him much on the floor."
"Simmons is doing all this individual work but hasn't been cleared for team work. He hasn't been cleared for conditioning, hasn't been able to run. It is very unclear when Simmons will be able to return. There is hope internally that it will happen sometime in the next week, it's just that the Neta don't know."
The availability of Ben Simmons changes the dynamic with which this Nets team operates on the court. They will finally have a formidable defender who has the size and skills to defend players anywhere on the floor. In addition, you also receive a secondary playmaker that could free up Kevin Durant to focus more on scoring than creating.
However, it does look like this season is a stretch too far to see Simmons back on the floor. If he can get healthy and deliver on what his skill-set promises next season, the Nets will continue to be contenders for as long as they can keep this core together.