Hearing Ben Simmons say that doesn’t worry you much about his status.
“I feel great,” Simmons said after practice.
Simple and easy. As if.
Ahead of the upcoming game in Toronto, Simmons has been inactive for five of the Nets’ last seven games, including four in a row from November 30 to December 7, while struggling with knee pain and a calf strain.
Sat, Dec 17
Saturday December 17th
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The Nets would always take Simmons slowly this season, putting him back-to-back at the second end as a result of the time he spent sitting last season — first while holding out in Philadelphia, then with a back injury during Trade to Brooklyn.
At least publicly, the Nets haven’t capped Simmons’ minutes, but they do pay close attention to how much he plays and try to get him to be healthy when the games matter most.
“I think we’ve continued to add to our minutes, but not to the point where it’s too many,” said coach Jacque Vaughn – referring to both Simmons and TJ Warren, who recently recovered from an injury of his own has returned. “And that’s why we want these two guys to be healthy at the end of the year.
“So we have to be smart about how we use these guys going forward, whether we use those minutes in a row, whether they play that many minutes in a single game. I think we have enough depth to use their minutes sensibly and be able to play at a pace that we want and still play hard.
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Simmons obviously wants to play as much as possible. This creates a bit of a push and pull, although the player acknowledges that they are a biased party and may not be the best person to make the final decision.
“I’m not a doctor, brother,” Simmons said. “I’m not making that decision. I can only tell them how I feel, but at the same time I trust their choices and what they think is best for me.”
“They have this honest talk about what’s too much,” Vaughn said. “I think initially we wanted to keep pushing Ben to play as many games as possible and grow up with the group on the floor. I think we learned that maybe we were pushing a little too much for a guy who hasn’t played in a long time. And so I think sometimes you learn something by going through the situation and [get] wiser on the other side, hopefully.”
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Partly as a result of only playing 19 games this season, Simmons is still scrambling towards his place with the Nets. The talent that made him a no-brainer #1 overall pick is still there, but so much of the Simmons narrative has focused on his shortcomings, and for obvious reasons. Vaughn wants to find a way to make it work.
“He’s just so unique,” Vaughn said.
“Who you’re going to have out there on the floor, what the distance is going to be like, what he’s going to be like with the basketball in his hands, where he’s going to be without the basketball in his hands. So we always try to put him in a position to be successful. And we’re still messing with where he is.
They might play around a bit longer, but Vaughn expressed optimism that his workload might not be as limited across the board — maybe even when the Nets next play back-to-back games on Jan. 19.
“I think we want all of our boys to be in all of the games,” Vaughn said. “So yes, we want to work towards all of our guys being able to play back-to-back.”
This article first appeared on The New York Postand has been reproduced with permission.