One of the only things Ben Simmons hasn’t done in the last 10 months is play a basketball game. But he’s close. So let’s reflect on what he has been through.
A lot has happened since Ben Simmons passed up an open dunk for the 76ers during game seven of their Playoff series loss against the Atlanta Hawks.
The Australian star has endured a rough 10 months, escalated by his Playoffs output for Philadelphia.
His last game for the 76ers will be the one fans never forget, as the moment ‘viralled’ and spiralled out of control.
But his return to the court is reportedly edging closer.
Based on Ben Simmons’ progress in practices this week – and the anticipation of him further accelerating in the coming days – Game 4 vs. Boston on Monday is looming as a realistic target for his Brooklyn debut, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 20, 2022
So here’s what’s happened with the controversial 25-year-old since that game.
Following the loss to the Hawks, 76ers superstar Joel Embiid described Simmons’ decision to not go for the open dunk as ‘the turning point of the game’.
Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers told the media he ‘didn’t know the answer’ to whether Simmons could be the starting point guard on an NBA championship team.
Ben took the brunt of the blame for Philly’s Playoff exit.
Skipping on the Boomers’ Olympic mission
Plenty of Australians believed Simmons could rediscover his mojo in green and gold, alongside Patty Mills and co.
But the momentum of a trip to Tokyo was dismissed before it had a chance to gain steam.
Simmons requested a trade in the off-season, refusing to train and play.
When he did eventually take to the court for practice, he presented as someone completely uninterested and unmotivated. Coach Rivers gave Ben the boot.
The fines and suspension
Simmons was suspended for the 76ers first game of the season for ‘conduct detrimental to the team’ and for his ‘reluctance to physically and mentally engage’.
He was fined more than $19 million for missing 50 regular-season games.
The mental health battle
The 25-year-old cited an on-going mental health battle, complicating his return to basketball.
He admitted these issues had dated back to before the 76ers’ Playoff exit.
Simmons got his wish, eventually, and was traded to Brooklyn just before the Trade Deadline in February.
He was sent to New York with Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two-first round picks. James Harden went back the other way, reunited with former Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey.
The Australian would land in a prime location – a ‘big market’ but lower pressure spot, playing in a team already consisting of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Plus, of course, linking up with compatriot Patty Mills couldn’t have hurt.
The back injury
Simmons’ Nets debut has been delayed by a back injury that’s hindered his return to basketball shape.
He had an epidural shot in mid-March to reduce the pain and irritation associated with a herniated disk in his lower back.
The legal case vs the 76ers
Simmons has filed a grievance to challenge the nearly $20 million of salary withheld by the 76ers, according to ESPN.
The grievance is heading to an arbitration process and could have larger league implications amid future issues of mental health matters and NBA contracts.
The 76ers insist that Simmons breached his contract.
The comeback and Nets debut
The Nets are in a battle against the Boston Celtics and trail 2-0 in their playoff series.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Simmons could make his return ‘somewhere in that game four… or game six range’ during the playoff series against the Celtics.
“We’re starting to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Charania said about Simmons’ situation on The Rally.
“He’s (Simmons) going to take some contact by the end of the week and see how his body and his back respond to that contact.”
Simmons made a huge step forward in his recovery after he came through practice pain-free after he went four-on-four.
“(Monday) was his first day of contact, played with some teammates,” Nets coach Steve Nash said after Tuesday’s practice.
“He’s making progress, but there’s no real update.
Should Simmons’ return to basketball be in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, with his team under pressure, he has a perfect opportunity to start writing the wrongs of his unceremonious departure from Philadelphia.