Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVApril 21, 2022
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Ben Simmons is reportedly preparing to make his Brooklyn Nets debut in Game 4 of the team's first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics on Monday.

Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic reported Thursday that Simmons' return from a back injury is contingent on having no setbacks during the final stages of his recovery.

Brooklyn is facing a 2-0 deficit against Boston after losing the first two games on the road.

Simmons hasn't played an NBA game since June 20 when the Philadelphia 76ers were eliminated from the 2021 playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks.

The three-time All-Star proceeded to stay away from the Sixers for most of the offseason while awaiting a trade. When that didn't happen, he returned before the start of the 2021-22 campaign, but he opted against playing in games to focus on his mental health.

He was finally moved ahead of the deadline in February, joining Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and draft picks heading to the Nets as part of a blockbuster deal headlined by James Harden going to Philly.

Simmons' first appearance with Brooklyn was delayed by the back injury, which was diagnosed in March as a herniated disc.

Nets head coach Steve Nash said Wednesday they would let the two-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection tell them when he was prepared for game action.

"There's no other way than him to say, 'I'm ready,'" Nash told reporters. "We can't push him places when you have been out this long. It's got to be something where he is definitely comfortable and ready to play."

What Simmons will be able to provide after more than 10 months away from a competitive atmosphere is hard to predict, especially since he's jumping into the heat of a playoff series. Brooklyn could also be facing an elimination game at that point.

At minimum, the Nets are likely hoping the 25-year-old LSU product can provide a defensive boost after they allowed 229 points on 49.4 percent shooting over the first two games.

Simmons probably isn't ready to play huge minutes, so he could initially operate as the backup point guard to Kyrie Irving and join the starters in crunch time.

His role would likely grow if the Nets can turn the series around and make a deeper playoff run.