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Waiting for Ben Simmons ... again

It is Sean Marks top priority, getting Ben Simmons healthy and back on the court. How realistic is it?

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It’s incremental of course and nothing to shout about — yet — but Ben Simmons is back at HSS Training Center and wants to let you know it. For three straight days, he has posted images of HSS on his Instagram story, each taken at around 6:00 a.m.

Here’s the one from Thursday morning ...

As Billy Reinhardt tweeted...

Simmons didn’t provide any details on what his regimen entails: is he getting treatment, rehabbing, working out ... all the above? All the Nets would say is that he is “continuing his rehab.”

Still, whenever Simmons does anything, it has to be noted. There’s really nothing else as important to the Nets than Simmons getting healthy and justifying the $78.2 million he’s owed over the next two years. Signing Cam Johnson is indeed a top priority for Brooklyn’s future. So is what the Nets do with their three picks in the 2023 Draft, which is seen a strong one.

But a healthy Ben Simmons would go a long way to solving a lot of the Nets issues, things like bolstering the point guard position, helping close the rebounding gap and making Brooklyn a defensive juggernaut. He can do all those things. He did them for the 76ers before holding out in 2021-22, then getting back surgery. He is also the only All-Star and only All-NBA player on the Nets roster, having been an All-Star three times as well as All-NBA once. Twice, he was All-Defensive team, something only two Nets — Buck Williams and Jason Kidd — have ever done.

Sean Marks, as is his wont, tried to paint a positive picture at his press conference on Sunday morning but kept the details spare.

“He is checking the boxes on meeting different markers along the way. So at this point, he does not need surgery,” said the Nets GM, offering the lack of a need for a second procedure a positive. “That is the hope going forward, that he will not have to endure another surgery and we can keep progressing. The timeline for this is that he’ll be back 100% probably by September 1. That would be the goal and he’s a full go in training camp and ready to go.”

That was it. Reporters didn’t ask Jacque Vaughn or his teammates any specific questions about Simmons. Nor did they volunteer anything.

Brian Lewis had previously reported that the 6’11” guard/forward has “made really good improvement” the Nets would make a final decision on his need for surgery at the “start of May” which is next week. That’s also the one-year anniversary of his microdiscectomy in Los Angeles. As we learned in recent weeks, a full recovery on such a surgery can be as long as 18 months. And as we also learned trying to shorten that timetable doesn’t really fly.

Simmons looked like a shell of himself in 42 games this season averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 points and 6.1 assists. The Nets shut him down for the season on March 24 after he missed 15 straight games going back to February 15. And before he was shut down, Vaughn worried aloud about how Simmons “fit” sounding uncertain about where things between the player and team stood ...

“We’re trying to figure out what lineup fits around Ben, what position fits for Ben, how we can make him look good at every opportunity. That’s the goal and I’m still trying to figure that out,” said Vauhgn on February 13 which of course was also days after Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving left and Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith arrived.

Of course, Nets fans remain skeptical and even cynical about any reports of Simmons progress. So do the league pundits. In his assessment of the Nets off-season prospects, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (no relation) had this to say about reports of Simmons improvements.

“Of course, the biggest mystery of this roster is whether we will ever see a playable version of Ben Simmons. Lets face it. that’s the mystery, that’s going to be the unknown,” said Marks in a video posted after the Nets post-season press conference.

“I don’t care what’s written about him over the summer, that Ben Simmons is making progress, that he’s going to ready for training camp. Show me! Show me in a game that you can become serviceable in a rotation because if not, you’ve got two years at $78 million left on his contract for a player who’s played 42 games in two seasons.”

That’s an analysis some Nets fans have echoed on social media, but it doesn’t serve the team well. Whatever the Nets plans are, having Simmons as a solid player or a choice trade asset, it’s better if he’s healthy.

The Instagram story images do not satisfy Bobby Marks call to “show me,” but Simmons has also engaged a new agent, Bernie Lee who has a reputation as being a Mr. Fixit, getting his clients what they want, what they need and at least at this point, that is a more fulfilling role in Brooklyn. Lee, who has a small client list, was able to get his Jimmy Butler what he wanted.

It’s hard to imagine where things are headed. A lot of Nets fans at this point simply see Simmons as a sunk cost, his roster spot an afterthought, but he’s two months younger than Johnson, two months older than Bridges and two years older than Nic Claxton. Lot of defensive potential there.

As Billy Reinhardt also tweeted, despite everything, ya gotta have hope. “Seems he’s working hard to do that by all accounts. That’s a good sign. What happens next is TBD. Doesn’t serve him, Nets, or fans well if he doesn’t improve.”