Simmons hasn’t participated in a full practice since heading to Brooklyn, and coach Steve Nash told reporters Saturday that he has a long way to go to reach that point. General manager Sean Marks recently expressed hope that Simmons would be ready to practice by the end of this week, but Saturday’s workout passed without any more clarity on the situation.
“He’s not ready for even one-on-one, let alone three-on-three, five-on-five,” Nash said. “So he’s got to get to a place where he can go full speed unopposed, one-on-oh, and then we’ll talk about and hopefully quickly he can go to one-on-one, three-on-three, five-on-five.”
Nash didn’t speculate on how long those steps might take, but Simmons is running short on time with just four weeks left in the regular season. Lewis notes that the Nets’ performance team typically requires players to go through three high-intensity workouts with no physical issues before clearing them to play.
Lewis adds that the March 18 game against Portland or the March 21 contest against Utah once seemed like realistic dates for Simmons to make his debut, but now it’s not certain that he’ll even be practicing by then.
Simmons’ infamous performance in Game 7 of the Hawks series in June is the last time he played in an NBA game. He was involved in a months-long standoff with the Sixers over mental health issues before Brooklyn acquired him in a blockbuster deal at the deadline.
Shortly afterward, Simmons suffered back tightness, which has prevented him from being cleared to practice by the Nets’ performance team.
“Yeah, a little setback, whatever that was,” Nash said. “So now we’re just trying to make sure we get that in the bag before we rush him out there and suffer a longer setback.”
Simmons did some shooting, ball-handling and light cutting during Saturday’s practice session, but Lewis states that he was undergoing treatment from the training staff during the portion of the practice that the media watched.
Simmons also had back issues during the 2019-20 season and suffered a nerve impingement in his lower back in February 2021. He also had a flare-up while he was out of action this year, prompting questions about whether the back might be a long-term concern.
“I don’t want to classify it the wrong way, but he’s had back issues at times. So I don’t want to say he’s got a bad back, I don’t know if that’s fair,” Nash said. “He’s had a flare-up of something, but was really healthy for the last six months until the flare-up. So I don’t want it to be … I’m not sure that it’s fair for me to say he has a back problem. It’s just right now he has a flared-up back.”