No-one quite has any idea who Ben Simmons will make his Brooklyn Nets debut against.
In fact, he is probably none the wiser himself.
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The former Philadelphia 76ers star hadn’t played so much as a second of action in the NBA this season as he sat out games due to mental health concerns.
After getting traded to the Nets before the deadline passed, Simmons has been hitting the hardwood in practise as he looks to reach match-level fitness
But just as it seemed as if Simmons was turning a corner in his preparation, he copped a flare-up in his back, which is an injury the Nets supposedly expected given his lack of action in recent times.
Speaking on The Pat McAfee Show, renowned NBA reporter Shams Charania claimed that “there is hope and optimism” that the 25-year-old will be back on the court before the postseason begins, but cited the injury timeline of a Warriors star who had a similar issue as a warning that Simmons might not be back so soon.
“With backs, you see Draymond Green, he’s been out for the last two months coming up,” Charania said.
“He’s not getting that back flexibility.
“The back is tricky, so it could take Ben Simmons a few weeks, it could take him a week, you never know with a back.”
With Simmons’ back injury, it has seemingly decreased the chances of what would have undeniably been box-office television.
The Nets take on the Sixers on March 11 (AEDT), and many hoops fans felt that the timeline with Simmons being traded and working up his fitness to the necessary levels would have aligned perfectly so he would make his debut in his homecoming game to Philly.
But the back injury has thrown plans for a Nets debut against Philly up into air.
However, could that have been a blessing in disguise?
Having sat out of the season due to mental health concerns, entering a Philly arena baying for his blood might not be the best idea.
It’s a take that The Ringer’s Bill Simmons certainly believes in.
“If there is (mental health doubts), why would I want to put him in that Philly game?
“If I’m worried about him and his mental health, I’m going to bring him to that game with the Philly fans who are going to be out of their minds, ready to go nuts and boo him every time he gets the ball?
“He’s not going to be able to handle that if he’s having issues with that.
“If he’s not having issues with it, you’re trying to build some confidence as a basketball player, throw him in that game … what if they hack him?
“Keep putting him on the line and he starts air balling free throws?
“There’s so many ways that can go wrong.
“I just don’t’ think it’s worth it.
“I think you’ve got to go past that game and then bring him back.”
Speaking on the same podcast, Zach Lowe felt that if Simmons was indeed available for the Sixers game and didn’t play, it would only serve to blow up in the Nets’ face.
“If that’s that important for him not to play in that Philly game, then I’m sort of scared,” Lowe said.
“What did I just trade for, a guy that can’t play in the regular season against the Sixers or I’m going to lose him for the year?
“Do you want to do this thing and get it over with, or do you want to do this in the playoffs?”
A Sixers-Nets playoff series isn’t a scenario that’s unimaginable.
The Sixers sit in third spot in the Eastern Conference and are three games back from leaders Miami Heat.
The Nets are in eighth and are nine games back, but when Simmons and Kevin Durant return, expect Brooklyn to shoot back up the standings as the stars get to work.
But until then, Simmons remains sidelined with the back injury.
However, Fox Sports USA’s NBA reporter Ric Bucher believes that Simmons can’t come back soon enough for the leaky Nets.
“Ben Simmons is the defender and the defender they need,” Bucher said on Undisputed.
“They’re ranked defensively 20th right now, they’re down the scales when it comes to rebounds.
“Ben Simmons will do all of that.
“He can defend a point guard and in this day and age he can defend a 5.
“That is going to be vital.”
It all leads Bucher to ponder what shape Simmons will return in and just how important is he to the Nets’ championship hopes?
Spoiler alert: he’s very important.
“If the question is how indispensable he is for the Nets to get to the Finals, there is no way they get anywhere near the Finals without Ben Simmons and Ben Simmons playing his best basketball,” Bucher said.
“Without question, defensively they have to have Ben Simmons.”