By BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Ben Simmons hopes to play for the Brooklyn Nets during their first-round series against Boston, though he probably won’t be ready for Game 3 on Saturday.READ MORE: Celtics-Heat Eastern Conference Finals preview: Two tough defenses against two balanced attacks
Simmons said Game 4 on Monday is more likely.
“I think it’s reasonable to think that, but it’s day to day,” Simmons said after practice Friday. “I can’t tell you definitely Game 4, Game 3. If I could play right now, I’d be on the court.”
Simmons didn’t play for the Philadelphia 76ers this season, then injured his back after being traded to the Nets in February. He has only recently begun doing more than just individual work while dealing with a herniated disk.
The Nets are down 2-0 in the series. Simmons expects to get another workout Saturday and then a determination will be made if he’s ready to jump in Monday — when they could be facing elimination.
“I don’t want to put too much on Ben. He hasn’t played basketball in this environment for a long time, so it’d be amazing to have him back and to incorporate him into our group on the floor,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “Obviously we know he gives us size and speed and playmaking and defense and rebounding and all those things that are helpful, but we’ll just have to see how he progresses and not put too much pressure on him coming back.”READ MORE: Celtics-Heat Eastern Conference Finals Schedule
Simmons hasn’t played in a game since last June 20, when the 76ers lost Game 7 at home to Atlanta in the second round. He requested a trade afterward and then didn’t play for the 76ers this season, citing mental health concerns.
He won’t make any predictions about how well he can play after the layoff, but he insists he wants to try, even with so much rust at such an important time.
“Body-wise, once my body is ready, I want to be able to help this team win. That’s what I’m here for, so I mean, it is what it is,” Simmons said. “I’ve got to get on the floor and help this team win. I’ve been traded to the Brooklyn Nets and that’s what they need me to do.”
Even with a limited offensive game, Simmons would be a help to the Nets because of what he does on the other side. He was voted to the All-Defensive first team each of the last two seasons and could take some turns guarding Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Simmons said his basketball IQ can help him fit in with a team he hasn’t even fully practiced with, and the Nets hope his body will allow that. Teammate Patty Mills, a fellow Australian, said it was hard to compare the circumstances of Simmons’ debut with anything else he could recall.MORE NEWS: Marcus Smart questionable for Celtics-Heat Game 1 with foot injury
“But I mean, we’ve been through some pretty crazy stuff this year,” Mills said. “I don’t think this is any different to that and it’s one of those things where we’re here and this is what we have, so let’s make the most of it.”