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How encouraging is the steady drumbeat of news about Ben Simmons?

After two years of ups and downs, justifiable skepticism, etc., etc. Ben Simmons appears close to another return. Will this one be different?

NBA Paris Games 2024 - Brooklyn Nets Cares Event Photo by Catherine Steenkeste/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets announced Monday that Ben Simmons will travel with the team on its three-game, five-day trip to the West Coast. Simmons who hasn’t played since November 6 will make the trip and continue his ramp-up but as of this moment, there’s still no timetable for his return. Yes, we’ve heard that one before.

Skepticism, of course, abounds. Ever since the three-time All-Star arrived in Brooklyn as part of the James Harden trade at the end of the 2021-22 season, there have been false starts, ups and downs, new injuries reported, lengthy rehabs and rumors of dissent between the player and team. Bottom line, though, is simple: the Brooklyn Nets need Ben Simmons, particularly his playmaking and defense, if they are going to compete. The team was built on his ability to find the open man on offense and shut down the opponents big star on the opposite end.

So, what’s the reality at this point? It does appear that Simmons is getting closer. He is doing 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 workouts with assistant coaches. The expectation being that barring a setback, he will ultimately move to 5-on-5 with the Nets “stay ready” group and then play, but there’s no public timetable, For Simmons, the goal is not so much getting back on the floor but getting healthy in a sustainable way so that he and the team aren’t guessing on his availability, his future with the franchise.

Indeed, there seems to be a steady drumbeat of news starting with Brian Lewis first reporting the workouts back on January 3. There’s also been more news than just that he’s doing court work.

In Paris, he spoke to the media and told them, “I’m getting there, just progressing every day. So yeah, I’ll be back soon.” but he declined to offer a timetable...

There was his agent, Bernie Lee, taking questions from NetsDaily on Twitter five days ago — and providing a lot of transparency — on Simmons possibilities, saying his recovery is “getting to the home stretch” and praising the Nets for their support of their highest paid player, saying that while many teams talk about a player-first culture, the Nets actually walk the walk.

Then, over the weekend, Simmons went on both TikTok and Instagram to give fans a sense of where things stand. The TikTok post was video of him working out with coaches on the court, complete with music...

But the Instagram post was more fulsome on the issue of return. He talked about where things stand, taking fans into his rehab ... and his thinking.

Nets fan and aspiring player agent Billy Reinhardt transcribed Simmons commentary and posted it on Twitter...

“Feel good. Working every day. Be back soon.” “There was a point when I got hurt this season, I was like ‘holy sh*t, I don’t know if I could do this again’… it’s just something in you. For me, I’m just not going to stop. I just don’t have that in me to stop. It’s just what I want to do, I want to continue to play basketball. Playing this game keeps me going. Things happen at untimely times and for me it’s like part of the journey, you got to embrace every day, every moment, every workout. That’s what creates the story. This is just another part of my journey and another test that I have to go through.”

“It’s hard to explain to somebody when they’ve never dealt with an injury like this. It’s not a physical thing, you’re not spraining your ankle, you’re not twisting your knee. I don’t want to be back for one game and then out. I want to be back and help this team win and get to the playoffs and see where we can go.”

Simmons addressed fan skepticism as well.

“Kind of understanding that people want to know what I’m doing. Interested and fascinated, they’re pissed off. Some things, I think I will open up and allow people to see.”

“I think it’s important just to have happiness besides your job. And then you allow your job to add happiness. For me, playing basketball would add to my happiness. Like, I hate going to games and watching my team play without me. It’s one of those times that I have to appreciate everything I have and everything that’s in front of me.”

The Nets have recently provided their own updates, more bare bones than Simmons and Lee, the latest Jacque Vaughn discussing where things stand with Simmons as the Nets prepare to head out to Portland and Los Angeles to play the Blazers, Lakers and Clippers.

“[He has] the ability to get on the court with multiple bodies around him,” said Vaughn. “We can say it’s with coaches. I’ll put it at that parameter.”

Best guess about the immediate future? We will likely see more ramp-up on the road, but no appearances on the court. Then, when the Nets return home vs. the Knicks next Tuesday, they will be start a 20-day stretch where they will play only one game on the road (ironically vs. Philadelphia.) That could be the ideal situation for both team and player to re-introduce Ben Simmons.

“He’ll get there. I have less than 0 doubts. I see it every day,” said Lee.