Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant prepares to face Boston Celtics without Ben Simmons

NEW YORK – As speculation surrounding Ben Simmons’ potential debut for the Brooklyn Nets continues to be a talking point in the NBA, Nets star Kevin Durant admitted Thursday that he’s preparing as if Simmons will not return as the Nets prepare for their Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Boston Celtics.

“I don’t expect him to compete,” Durant said after Thursday’s training session. “It’s easier for me. I don’t put any pressure on Ben to go out there and dance. So I don’t expect him to do anything but just settle down and get fit. as fast as possible. So in my mind, I’m preparing as if we’re playing against the team we have.”

Simmons, who was acquired by the Nets shortly before a February deal deadline from the Philadelphia 76ers, has not played in an NBA game for nearly a year after requesting a trade from the Sixers last season, citing concerns about mental health. Simmons has been dealing with some back pain since late February and has not been allowed to participate in training since arriving in Brooklyn. Nets coach Steve Nash said Thursday that Simmons is still not doing any “basketball conditioning” and continues to do personal rehabilitation work.

“It depends on Ben’s return,” Nash said. “It doesn’t depend on me, any of us, other than his return – and how we can help solve that, that’s great. There’s a chance that Ben is back, yes. So, I think for us, we have to focus on the team; support Ben and his journey back to the ring, but at the same time we don’t have time to lose practice. Focus on the team you are playing.

“Ben is the cornerstone of the franchise – but now it’s about supporting him physically and mentally to get back into the ring and coach the team to get the best out of at least a few games. Internally, we’re not sitting here saying, “Ben is coming back in this series.” We’ll see what happens.

For his part, Durant said he won’t even put his mind to the thought of whether Simmons will return from the season.

“I didn’t even think about it,” Durant said of the potential uplift from Simmons’ return. “We all know what kind of player Ben is. And you can come up with scenarios in your head to see what it’s going to be like, but I’m not going to go there because we’re only looking at a day. stop time.”

Nash recently said he wouldn’t have a problem with Simmons making his Nets debut in a playoff, even though he hasn’t played in nearly a year. When asked why he was confident in that prospect since it had been so long since Simmons played in an NBA game, Nash’s answer was simple.

“He’s a super talented player,” Nash said. “I think we’ll have to give him a chance if he’s fit to play.”

Veteran points guard Goran Dragic said on Thursday that Simmons’ debut, whenever it may come, will give a bounce to a group of Nets that have faced trauma and numerous problems throughout. Season.

Dragic said: “I feel very happy that you have an extra body. “And with his skill, what he can bring is unique. He can go from 1 to 5. He’s a great defender. So we all know him. can speed up, he’s a great passer, so that’s a different kind of support

“You also have a huge body to restore attack and defense… that definitely helps when you have KD out, [Andre] Drummond and then Ben. It’s a big squad. “

Nash said “of course” he was thinking about the possibility of having Simmons on the squad, “but not like tomorrow.”

“For whenever he comes back,” Nash said. “So of course, when we did the deal, I think everyone was imagining how Ben could fit into our group. But I’m not sitting here expecting him to come back any time soon. That’s when he’s ready and he’s back, it’s going to be great. But in the meantime we have to train the team and make sure we give ourselves a chance to play even if we don’t. have him.” Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant prepares to face Boston Celtics without Ben Simmons

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