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HUGE IF TRUE! Woj and Shams say Ben Simmons could play in first round of playoffs!

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Brooklyn Nets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that escalated quickly!

Within a matter of hours, the Nets calculus for the upcoming post-season MAY, MAY have changed.

First overnight, there was the overnight Instagram post of Saturday’s practice that featured Simmons. It did not seem random...

Steve Nash reacted to the release of the video in pre-game discussions with his typical conservative commentary...

“He’s doing a little bit of movement, still 1-on-0 stuff. He’s still got a lot of milestones to reach, but it’s positive,” Nash said. “He’s moving around a little bit. But it’s positive.”

He did note that Simmons is in good spirits.

“I think he looks really positive, happy, encouraged,” Nash said. “He’s just working away at his rehab.”

Indeed, Simmons still hasn’t gone 1-of-1. He’ll still have to surpass that milestone, then 3-on-3, 5-on-5 plus three high-intensity workouts before he can be cleared.

But, during pregame warmups Sunday afternoon, Simmons participated in shooting drills with assistant coach, Ryan Forehan-Kelly. It was the first time since he was traded in mid-February that he was this active — and apparently pain-free.

Then, it got really interesting. First Shams...

Moments later, Woj went on the ESPN pregame show and after noting, “I know we’ve been here before with Ben Simmons but ... “ added...

“... If he continues through pain-free the way he has and progresses, there is optimism around the Nets they can get him back in the first round of the playoffs, if they advance on the play-in.

“Even if it is 10-15 minutes per game, they will take whatever they can get from Ben Simmons. Of course, that is contingent on him being pain-free and he’s got plenty more to ramp up to. He’s just starting on his 1-on-0 workouts but for Brooklyn, the chance to get Ben Simmons back even in a limited role is real.”

During the game, ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth added to the optimism, saying Simmons will still need to “strengthen the protective muscles that eliminate irritation on his spine.”

And in his article, Woj laid out more details...

Simmons has been moving more freely on the court and advanced to shooting and 1-on-0 workouts after stops and starts since his trade to the Nets from the Philadelphia 76ers two months ago.

Simmons had an epidural shot in mid-March to subdue pain and irritation with a herniated disc in his lower back. He has found more traction in the past week, and, barring setbacks, there’s an increasing confidence that he could become available to the Nets sometime in a first-round series, assuming the Nets advance out of the play-in tournament.

There it is. Putting aside ALL the caveats, there IS progress. Of course, a lot of things have to happen quickly. The first round begins next weekend.

The Nets have been extremely conservative, if opaque, in dealing with Simmons back issue.

Simmons seemed to be moving well in his return to play in mid-February when he suffered a setback, apparently late in the month. Twelve days after the February 10 trade, Sean Marks spoke glowingly about his return in a sitdown with Nets season ticket-holders. And on February 26, Simmons flew with the Nets to Milwaukee.

Then, rumors of a setback began circulating, and on March 3 in talking with Michael Grady of YES, Marks had to admit there had a been a setback which he described as “back stiffness.” Things began to improve three weeks ago when the Nets medical staff administered Simmons an epidural. On March 25, Simmons flew to Miami, his first flight in month. But the next day, March 26, Nash admitted the diagnosis was a herniated disc.

Since then, reports have been generally negative with Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst, Woj’s ESPN colleagues dismissing the possibility of Simmons playing at all this season, including the post-season. Now, that appears to have changed and dramatically.

Post-game, Nash didn’t deny the reports but once again noted that there are “markers” he will have to hit before he gets on the court. He didn’t provide any timetable for Simmons.

“Who knows. There’s no timetable for his return right now. He’s clearly got some markers to hit,” said the head coach. “He’s not even going full speed on the court. The timetable is not set. We’re just going to continue to coach and play as a group here, and Ben will continue to work hard at rehabbing. Whenever the time comes, we’ll be grateful.”

He did confirm Brian Lewis report that Simmons has been using the team’s AlterG (an anti-gravity treadmill) equipment to help improve his conditioning but said that Simmons has not yet done any running.

“No. I wouldn’t say he’s done any conditioning or running,” Nash added. “He’s been doing some movement, but nothing full speed yet.”