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Ben Simmons is ‘pain-free’ say Ramona Shelbourne and Shams Charania. What’s next?

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics - Game One Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Has “pain-free” surpassed “ramp-up” as a buzzword for Ben Simmons return saga?

Both Ramona Shelburne of ESPN and Shams Charania used “pain free” Monday when discussing the (possibly) imminent return of Simmons from a 10-month layoff...

“He’s going to ramp it up,” Shelburne told ESPN’s NBA Today. “He’s going to do more in practice this week. And each one of those thresholds he crosses — 1-on-1, 3-on-3 — each one of those is where you evaluate, how I you feel that day, then the next day. But I think he’s getting closer and I think the sense is that if he comes through this week of practices, he plays in this series.”

In the same segment, Woj reiterated his similar report from the weekend that Simmons had been “running and shooting pain-free” for a week.

Shelburne’s comment, of course, is a big turnaround for her. She wrote a 3,000-word profile of the 25-year-old in February and is close to Simmons camp. Two weeks ago, Shelburne was asked by Richard Jefferson on the same program what percentage she put on Simmons playing at all this year. Shelburne responded: “10%. I mean, come on, let’s be real.”

Earlier, Charania too used “pain free” in talking to Pat McAfee about Simmons situation...

“By the end of the week, the goal is for Ben Simmons to get in some 5-on-5 and actually get bumped up, get some contact,” Charania said on McAfee. “He hasn’t done that yet. He hasn’t done that since June of 2021. Game 4 is next Monday, and I’m told that is the point where we should start looking if Ben Simmons will play or not. The goal is for him to be back between Games 4 and 6.

“I think they are very confident that he’ll be able to make a return as soon as next Monday.”

Charania noted that Simmons has actually been “pain-free going on two, three weeks.” That’s not long after he received an epidural the weekend of March 15.

Then, he doubled-down on Monday evening when talking to The Rally...

Specifically, Charania put a return “somewhere in that Game 4… Game 6 range” in his interview with Brooke Fletcher. Both of those games would be at Barclays Center, Game 5 would be at TD Garden.

“So the hope, I’m told, is that he’s going to take some contact and they’ll see how his body and back respond but the hope and the target remain,” Charania said. “that Ben Simmons can make his return in this series, somewhere between Game 4 which is a week from now or Game 6 range. So, that would be a welcome sight for the Nets.”

Charania also offered some caveats, including that if the Nets sink into a deep hole vs. Boston, the Nets might not bring him back at all this year.

Kristian Winfield, writing Monday night for the Daily news, tweeted out video of Simmons in pre-game warmups Sunday, arguing that he wouldn’t be able to do what he was doing if he wasn’t, yes, pain-free.

And just as he did during Friday’s practice, Winfield noted, Simmons finished off his workout with a dunk.

Of course, we’ve heard and read variants of this story for the past week and according to all the reports we’ll have to wait a little while later. But putting aside all the rumors and bile emanating from the City of Brotherly Love, it’s good to remember that last season Simmons was an All-Star, First Team All-Defense and runner-up to Defensive Player of the Year.