Nets GM: Ben Simmons isn’t yet playing 5-on-5, not going to rush his return

16 July 2023

LAS VEGAS — The seemingly endless wait for Ben Simmons to play competitive basketball remains open-ended.

Nearly five months since his last game with the Nets, Simmons’s training still doesn’t include 5-on-5 or 3-on-3 workouts, GM Sean Marks revealed Sunday.

It was a notable development since the Australian national team coach said recently that Simmons was gearing up to play in August at the FIBA World Cup. But Simmons subsequently pulled out of World Cup consideration, which Marks said was a collaborative decision involving the Nets.

The GM said he visited Simmons in Miami and offered a rosy report of “he’s in great physical shape and also mentally.” But there remains no time table for his return from the back injury, only hope that Simmons will be available for Nets training camp at the end of September.

“We’ve got time,” Marks said. “This is not something where we’re going to rush him back in to play 5-on-5 in the next couple weeks. But he’s progressing — he’ll be ready to go hopefully very, very soon.”

Simmons has been dealing with back problems for a while and underwent surgery over a year ago. He briefly returned last season but was shut down in February due to pain. Before that, Simmons sat out an entire season while citing mental health struggles.

When he’s played, the 6-10 point guard has been a shell of his former All-Star self. The most noticeable issue is a reluctance to shoot or involve himself in the offense. Simmons averaged just 5.6 attempts and his free-throw percentage dipped to a career-low 43.9%.

Despite the evidence pointing to a severe drop off in production and confidence, Marks said fans should still expect Simmons to return to top form. His caveat is that Simmons gets healthy.

“That’s a great question. I mean, reasonably, I think the hope is that he returns to that level of play,” Marks said. “I mean, if he was 35 years old, I wouldn’t be able to tell you that. But I think knowing that he’s mid 20s and he has still not reached his prime, we’re going to make sure he can get back out there and get back to that form.

“And hopefully we see his game even evolve past that. But health is going to be the key to him.”

Simmons, who was acquired from Philly for James Harden, is owed $78 million through the 2024-25 season.

In the meantime, Simmons won’t play in the World Cup in Asia — where two of his Nets teammates, Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, are representing the United States — and his return remains without a set date.

“Bottom line is we kind of ran out of time for him to come back and represent Australia,” Marks said. “I love the fact that guys want to represent their country. It’s really important. It’s great for them, it’s great for the Brooklyn Nets, too, to have guys out there. Whether it’s Cam or Mikal or Ben. So hopefully he gets an opportunity to do that in the future. He’s made it very clear to us that’s something he wants to do in the future. This particular summer, he just ran out of time. It just wasn’t the right thing to do to put him out there without playing and rushing it.”


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