After Nets brass reportedly met with Ben Simmons and his agent on Monday afternoon — discussing the physical and mental issues still keeping him from making his season debut — Steve Nash confirmed that it’s not just his physical health that the sidelined All-Star is dealing with.
“I don’t want to overstate my understanding of the situation because I’m not in Ben’s shoes. That’s very important for me not to speak for Ben because I can’t relate to what he’s going through,” Nash said. “There’s a mental component with everything. Ben’s addressed that there is a mental component with what he’s going through; but how much and where he’s at with that is not for me to speak about.”
Simmons and Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul met with Nets general manager Sean Marks before Brooklyn’s do-or-die first-round Game 4 against the Celtics, according to ESPN.
Simmons — who has had his desire to play questioned by Hall of Famers like Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller — reiterated to team officials that he wants to play as soon as he can. The team reassured Simmons and his camp they’ll give him all the help it can.
“As far as an organization, we’re really pushing to support Ben in any way we can to help him improve physically and get back on the court, and the mental side of that is part and parcel,” Nash said. “They’re not separate.
“They’re not something that we don’t want to deal with. We want to help if he needs help in any aspect of his life and his game. He’s a cornerstone, so we want to help him feel great, play great and become a part of this team.”
They need him to. Because Nash is right: They’re committed, for better or worse. Simmons has three years and $114 million left on his contract.
Simmons was ramping up to play but suffered a herniated L-4 disk in his lower back, one that required an epidural in mid-March.
Multiple orthopedic specialists told The Post that Simmons was likely to miss the rest of the season, and a source close to the player added, “It’s just a timing thing. The problem is the season is running out.”
It may have run out. Brooklyn entered Monday down 3-0 and facing elimination. And after three pain-free contact workouts last week — giving rise to reports he’d debut in Game 4 — Simmons told the Nets on Sunday his back was now sore again.
“I’m not sure setback’s the right word. I don’t know what we’re calling it. He’s still trying to strengthen and put himself in a position to play,” Nash said. “He could feel great today, he could feel poor tomorrow. I just think that’s the landscape we’re in with his back.”
Simmons hasn’t had another MRI exam or been ruled out of Game 5, if there is one. But there have been eyebrows raised inside by everything from Simmons’ flashy attire to this sudden heel turn, and disappointment he wasn’t on the court for an elimination game and is unlikely to play alongside his teammates before next season.
“I’d be careful that disappointed doesn’t get taken out of context. Of course we’re all disappointed,” Nash said. “We’d love to see Ben on the floor with our teammates, but I don’t want it to be taken that I’m disappointed in Ben or anything like that. No. His back is his back, and we’ve got to work through this and he’s got to continue to fight. … But yeah, of course, we’d love to see Ben with our guys.”
Both Nash and a source close to Simmons expect him to avoid offseason surgery. But it’s a tough blow to deal a former MVP and get back a player who’s fighting not only back but mental issues and no guarantee either will be sorted out next year.
“It’s unfortunate for him. I know he probably wanted to be out there playing with us and to have a setback,” Nic Claxton said. “I know that sucks for us and it sucks for him.”