Tagged in: play in

Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash: Ben Simmons won’t make season debut in regular season, also likely out of play-in games

Brooklyn Nets swingman Ben Simmons will not be making his season debut in the regular season as he continues to deal with a herniated disk issue in his back, Nets coach Steve Nash said after Monday’s practice.

Nash added that while he remains hopeful that Simmons will return at some point in the playoffs, he would be “shocked” if Simmons played in the Nets’ play-in game next week.

“He’s not running, so yeah,” Nash said. “I don’t see him [being ready]. I would be shocked.”

After requesting a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers last summer, citing mental health concerns, Simmons was ultimately dealt to the Nets just before the trade deadline in February but has not been able to play because of ongoing issues with his back.

Nash said that Simmons actually made progress Monday by being able to shoot and starting to do some work with resistance bands, but the organization still has no idea when, or if, Simmons might be able to play this season.

“I mean that’s a big progression just to get here,” Nash said. “So he was doing nothing on the floor. But obviously he clearly started strengthening and doing some light shooting. So super positive on one hand; on the other hand, it’s not like … we’re expecting him in the lineup in the next week.”

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Nash said recently that he wouldn’t have a problem with Simmons making his debut in a playoff game even if he hadn’t played all year.

He also made it clear Monday that the Nets would take every precaution before putting him back on the floor.

“If he had played 65 games, this year and we’re going into the playoffs, and he had a few weeks’ injury, maybe [you’d think about rushing the normal progression],” Nash stated.

“But, I think in this situation, we got to put his health and safety first and make sure that we’re certain he’s ready to play and contribute. And the other part is he hasn’t played basketball, so you don’t know what kind of Ben you get. And he hasn’t been in an NBA game for, you know, nine to 10 months.”

Simmons’ teammates and coaches have repeatedly said he stays in good spirits in his new surroundings, but they just don’t know when he’ll be able to return to the floor.

The Nets currently sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference with a 40-38 record. Nash demurred when asked how realistic it would be to think Simmons could come back and play in the first round if the Nets were able to advance that far.

“We’ll see,” Nash said. “I don’t want to get too far down the road, like, I don’t want to walk through the next five weeks with you guys and guessing — you guys saw where he is today. He’s doing some increased strengthening, some increased mobility stuff, a little bit of shooting and that’s it.”

As far as the rest of the Nets’ injuries, Bruce Brown went through Monday’s practice and is expected to play Tuesday versus the Houston Rockets after missing Saturday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks because of a non-COVID illness.

Guard Goran Dragic (health and safety protocols) remains in Atlanta, and it is unclear when he’ll be able to return.

Nash also admitted that the Nets have discussed the chances of shutting down guard Seth Curry for the last four games of the regular season as he keeps to deal with left ankle soreness.

“That’s the position we’re in, is do we try to sit him?” Nash said. “Does him sitting for a week help? Or is he right back in the same boat anyway? And how important is it for us to try to creep up into the seven, eight spot? So we’re weighing all those things and it’s kind of more daily than it is making a decision.”

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Los Angeles Lakers stumble out of play-in position, now 11th in Western Conference

For the first time since the first week of the regular season, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves on the outside of the play-in tournament looking in after Tuesday night’s 128-110 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Playing without LeBron James (left ankle sprain) and Anthony Davis (right mid-foot sprain), the Lakers trailed by as many as 37 points as Luka Doncic recorded a 30-point triple-double through the first three quarters (34 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists).

“We just didn’t execute well enough and play with enough toughness, IQ, intelligence, focus and fight,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel stated. “So, not acceptable and just a poor performance across the board. Coaches, players, everybody.”

L.A. is currently No. 11 in the Western Conference with seven games left. The Lakers, at 31-44, have the same record as the No. 10 San Antonio Spurs, but the Spurs own the tiebreaker. Looking ahead to the final stretch, the Lakers have gone 4-10 against their six remaining opponents (they play the Denver Nuggets twice).

The Spurs have gone 5-11 against their six remaining adversaries (they play the Portland Trail Blazers twice). The Nuggets (45-31) are No. 6 in the Western Conference standings. The Blazers (27-48) are No. 12 and will be out their star, Damian Lillard, for the rest of the season.

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Vogel said James and Davis will both be re-evaluated Thursday to determine their availability for L.A.’s game against the Utah Jazz on Thursday night.

Davis, who has been sidelined since Feb. 16, is targeting a return by Friday at home versus the No. 9 New Orleans Pelicans, sources told ESPN.

Tuesday was about as bad as it has been for the Lakers in a season already full of disappointment. The 82 points they allowed in the first half were the second-most points allowed in a first half in franchise history, narrowly avoiding the record set when the Boston Celtics hung 83 on them in the first half on Feb. 27, 1959, according to data compiled by ESPN Stats & Info.

L.A.’s 26-point halftime deficit Tuesday combined with the 28 points the Pelicans outscored them by in the second half on Sunday represented the worst points differential, minus-54, over a two-half span for the Lakers in the shot-clock era.

“The standings are the results,” Vogel said when asked if falling out of the play-in ups the Lakers’ urgency. “We have to keep our focus on the process and the work and the things that are going to lead to the next win. That’s the only place that our focus will be.”

Russell Westbrook, who had 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists but was part of L.A. being outscored by 25 points in the 32 minutes he was on the floor, added another contentious postgame exchange with a reporter to his season resume.

As the exchange continued for a few more moments, Westbrook noticed a video camera pointed in his direction and changed his tone, offering a half-hug to the reporter, before leaving the room.

“We cool,” he said. “Y’all gotta make sure to record that.”

The Lakers are now 4-13 since the All-Star break, which is on pace to be the franchise’s second-lowest win percentage post All-Star break in team history.

“We just got our butt whooped. Straight up,” Stanley Johnson said. “So, whatever spirit or whatever, they kicked our ass. It was 30 points pretty much the whole game. I don’t know how else you want to put it. We got to be a lot better than that.”

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