Sean Marks, in an interview with Michael Grady of the YES Network, took aim at those former players and pundits who criticized Ben Simmons for not playing in Game 4 of the Celtics series but not knowing the full extent of his back injury. Smiling all the way, Marks said those “outside that medical profession” should be more careful. less judgmental “because you don’t know.”
Simmons missed the entire season, first with the 76ers citing mental health issues, then with the Nets because of a herniated disc in his lower back. After both Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania reported that Simmons would likely play in the game, the Nets listed Simmons as “out” after he woke up with back soreness for the second time in three days.
That set off a series of criticisms of his character and credibility, with high-profile pundits and Hall of Famers suggesting he simply didn’t want to play, was a coward, had a mental block, etc.
Asked for lessons learned from the Simmons off-again, on-again saga. Marks used the opportunity to critique the critics.
“It’s a little bit of a testament that 1) he tried to get back out there and tried to help his teammates and secondly, we have to be careful not judge people. And if you’re outside that medical profession, when you’re chiming in from afar. You just have to be a bit careful of what you’re saying because you really don’t know,” said Marks.
After the surgery, some of the critics acknowledged that they were unaware of the severity of the injury but none apologized. (It should also be noted that the Nets did not reveal the second MRI until last Wednesday’s press conference. It was the second MRI that led to the surgery,)
Marks also elaborated a bit on Simmons desire to get back the court in the playoffs and the reasoning behind administering the MRI. Asked by Grady about how he felt at the end of the Simmons saga, Marks said one emotion — frustration — topped them all. He said Simmons deserved credit not criticism.
“Frustrating from an organizational standpoint. but even more so from Ben’s,: said Marks. “I had a conversation with Ben. We all did. We saw how he wanted to get out there. To be honest, I’ve got to admire that. He tries to do 3-on-3, 5-on-5 and then you turn around and get an MRI, You see the disc herniation has gotten worse. and you think, well this guy is pushing through something that he shouldn’t be pushing through.
“Nobody wants to have surgery. It’s the last resort but it’s bygone now and we’ve got to move forward on this, we’ve got to support him and so forth.”
Marks reiterated what he had said at Wednesday’s presser about integrating Simmons into the Nets culture.
“We need to get him immersed in here, back on the court — as soon as possible,” he said. “We’re not going to push it, not going to rush it back but at the end of the day, we have a few months here unfortunately, but fortunately from his standpoint, from his well-being and his health, that’ll get him back in time for Open Gym and Training Camp and so forth.”
Open Gym is when players begin returning to HSS Training Center in early September while Training Camp opens near the end of that month.
“But it’s about supporting him, make sure we have the right people around him and welcome him into our family. We really haven’t had a chance yet to do that because it’s been so busy in the season. These informal dinners and lunches and meetings and so forth ... him just having the chance to be around his teammates will certainly help team chemistry and camaraderie.”
Marks spoke as well about he and Steve Nash have had “honest conversations” both about last season and the upcoming one. He reiterated the need for “high character players”
“You want people here to be part of something bigger than themselves. It’s a team sport ... it’s not individuals. Now, there are certain individuals that have a higher talent than the rest of us, but at the end of the day, everybody’s gotta be able to contribute.
“I think these last couple years here, some of the outside circumstances that were going on in the world affected our guys really poorly, unfortunately. Hopefully, those days are behind us and we can move forward.”
Marks also said he “could see no reason why” both Joe Harris and Seth Curry won’t be back healthy and ready for camp.
“The ultimate goal hasn’t changed,” he summed up. “That has to be the last team standing.”