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If push comes to shove, ending the Ben Simmons experiment might be a challenge for the Brooklyn Nets.
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported Simmons’ trade value is even murkier than it was before the Nets acquired him from the Philadelphia 76ers:
“Teams were reluctant to make strong offers to Philadelphia for Simmons before the deadline, and now there’s even more confusion about his condition. I spoke with a trusted source from a non-playoff team that was previously attracted to Simmons who told me they’re out on him.”
Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer spoke to a general manager who offered a similar view:
“Brooklyn just has to play it out a little bit. You don’t really have a choice. I just don’t think [Simmons] has any real trade value. He hasn’t been accountable for two franchises. He hasn’t played an entire season due to a back injury. How can you do a trade with the chance he reports and then says he can’t play because of the back again?”
Trading for the 25-year-old Simmons in February made sense for Brooklyn, even though he had yet to play in 2021-22. The Nets sorely needed his perimeter defending, and the presence of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving meant he wouldn’t have to shoulder the scoring burden he did with Philly.
And because of both his age and the three years left on his contract, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world if he didn’t play this season.
The way the last few weeks have unfolded has been nothing short of a disaster, though, and O’Connor’s and Fischer’s reports are a sign of how Simmons’ future with the Nets is already in question.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Simmons ruled himself out of Game 4 of the Nets’ opening-round NBA playoff series against the Boston Celtics because “a mental block exists for him, dating in part to last summer’s postseason.”
The trouble is that he gave the impression he was in a good place mentally and physically to suit up, telling reporters last week that Game 4 was a “reasonable” target.
Charania reported the sudden change “triggered frustration and disheartenment throughout the organization.”
The story also included this detail: “For Nets players, the confusion was not centered around Simmons’ ailment, but with the perceived lack of attempt to play, effort to be in uniform and push his body in these high-stakes playoffs, sources said.”
Contrast that with how Irving seemed to cause little stir internally when he needed to take time off midway through the 2020-21 season for personal reasons.
Constant will he/won’t he drama didn’t surround Durant either when the NBA’s COVID-19 pause in 2019-20 opened the door for him to return from his torn Achilles tendon. The 12-time All-Star ruled himself out for the restart, and that was that.
So much of the current drama could’ve been avoided if the Nets or Simmons made it clear that the odds he would play in the postseason were slim. That it didn’t happen raises some questions.
As the GM indicated to Fischer, Brooklyn has painted itself into a corner with the two-time All-Defensive standout. The franchise has little choice but to look toward next year and hope he can start delivering on the court.