Ben Simmons not cleared for practices by Brooklyn Nets, who hope Kevin Durant is able to return later in week

February 28, 2022, 8:09 PM

NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash said Monday that Ben Simmons still has not been cleared for practice as he recovers from the back soreness that he's been dealing with as he prepares to return to game action for the first time in almost nine months.

Simmons will not practice the rest of this week, and it remains unclear when he'll be able to make his debut for the Nets, who acquired him at the Feb. 10 trade deadline.

"He's just doing some light shooting and just physical therapy," Nash said. "Just making sure that he gets that back 100%, just that little flare-up, and while he does shooting and his reconditioning stuff that he's able to do while that thing settles down."

Nash spoke prior to Monday night's 133-97 loss to the Toronto Raptors, but he was not on the sideline after entering the league's health and safety protocols. Assistant coach Jacque Vaughn took over for Nash, who was ruled out shortly before tipoff. 

In his introductory news conference, Simmons was initially hopeful he would be ready to play against his former team in Philadelphia on March 10, but this latest back issue puts that in jeopardy. The good news for the Nets is that his teammates and coaches continue to say he's been in good spirits as he starts a new chapter in Brooklyn. Simmons cited mental health concerns as the reason he wanted to be traded from the Sixers.

"He seems like himself," Nets center Andre Drummond, who was Simmons' former teammate in Philly, said after Monday's shootaround. "Not that I had a chance to be around the whole situation in Philadelphia; I wasn't there for it so I can't speak on that, but what I see now from what I get to be with him every day, he's a happy kid and he's looking forward to playing."

Also Monday, Nash ruled Kevin Durant out of Tuesday's game in Toronto but expressed hope the star forward will be back later this week. Durant has been out since spraining the MCL in his left knee on Jan. 15.

"We're hopeful that he can play this week," Nash said. "He won't play tonight or [Tuesday]. Hopeful, I guess, that would be Thursday or Sunday. So Kevin's getting close, which is exciting. And Ben is still working through a number of things and reconditioning. He's not going to play this week, but we'll keep working on his timeline and hopefully he progresses well."

Nash said that while a final decision hasn't been made yet, it was likely that Durant and Simmons would not accompany the team to Toronto in advance of Tuesday's game, as both players continue their rehabs in Brooklyn.

Nets guard Bruce Brown said after Monday's shootaround that Durant was looking like his old self in practice.

"He doesn't look hurt to me," Brown said with a smile. "I'm going to be honest. He looks good."

Drummond echoed a similar sentiment. 

"He's going to come back and impact the game every way possible," Drummond said. "He's a threat both offensively and defensively. I think with our chemistry together on the floor, it's going to make it very difficult for teams to pick their poison, with who they want to guard, along with Kyrie, Seth [Curry] and when Ben comes back. And we go on the list of our roster, we have a lot of threats."