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Shams: Ben Simmons says he has a mental block that can trigger back problems

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NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In the latest round of stories on Ben Simmons and the Nets, Shams Charania reports that Simmons decision not to play in Game 4 “triggered frustration and disheartenment throughout the organization.”

Moreover, reports Shams, Simmons admitted to a “mental block” that can exacerbate his back issues.

Sunday’s events triggered frustration and disheartenment throughout the organization, multiple sources said. The fallout of Simmons being ruled out Sunday led to a meeting among franchise officials, Simmons and his agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, on Monday in Brooklyn.

According to sources, Simmons told those in the room that a mental block exists for him, dating in part to last summer’s postseason, which is creating stress that could serve as a trigger point for his back issues. He added that he does want to play basketball and play for the Nets as he works on solutions in regard to his well-being.

The detail was among several in Shams’ Tuesday reporting about the events leading to the decision. Here’s previously unreported information about the buildup

Simmons had been described as pain-free for the majority of the past month but began to cite soreness in his back on Friday, and a scheduled scrimmage was pushed back, multiple sources said. Simmons conducted two full-court scrimmages last week on Monday and Wednesday, in which there was low intensity displayed, those sources said. Throughout Simmons’ rehab, both Durant and Irving, for their part, publicly downplayed their expectations for a Simmons return and said the goal is to get him healthy.

Then came the key workout and aftermath...

On Sunday, Simmons informed the team his back was sore. 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. Nets players and coaches wanted to see Simmons show resolve and enter this series to start his on-court Brooklyn tenure, even if it was for limited minutes on Monday or none at all while still dressing for the game.

It was then that Steve Nash said the decision to play would ultimately lie with the player rather than the team. Indeed, it did. The Nets however were met with disappointment.

Many had hoped Simmons would find a way to make his debut amid a back issue as well. He made all of the necessary progressions in rehab and showed optimism about joining the team on the floor. That’s why, after a recovery process of starts, stops, delays and questions, the Nets and Simmons finally felt he was on the doorstep of a return. And it didn’t happen.

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report also reported on the Simmons saga, writing that there was some at HSS Training Center thought that the 25-year-old might even be ready for Game 3!

Before the Celtics series began on Easter Sunday, league sources told B/R the 25-year-old three-time All-Star and Nets personnel were confident he was on track to play as early as Game 3. Then his purported timeline became Game 4. That is until Sunday, when Simmons informed Brooklyn staffers he was experiencing back soreness, one day before Monday’s fateful Game 4 defeat.

Fischer also reports that at the end of the day, the organization was “fatigued” by the whole experience.

[T]he Nets ruled Simmons out of Game 4 altogether, sources said, as a sense of fatigue from the situation and general disappointment seemed to permeate the franchise. After visiting the floor for pregame warm-ups prior to Game 3, Simmons did not partake in any pregame work Monday and was not present on the bench alongside his teammates for Game 4, which one source told B/R was because of his lingering back discomfort.

Fischer says that even though he wouldn’t play, his representatives advised him to suit up and sit on the bench. But Simmons cited back discomfort and he stayed home. The Nets then declared him out.

What happens next? The Nets, who have had an extensive performance psychology since Sean Marks has been GM, are pledging their support, as Nash said post-game Monday.

“I think Ben has 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. But as far as an organization we’re really pushing to support Ben in any way we can and to help him improve physically and get back on the court and the mental side of that is part and parcel. That’s not, they’re not separate, they’re not something that we don’t want to deal with,” the head coach said.

“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.”

It should be noted that the Nets have had a performance psychologist on staff or in a consulting capacity for several years. More than one player has publicly noted how helpful he had been.

So, the Nets and their fans will wait. It’ll be five and a half months before he’ll have to step on a court when training camp begins.