Ben Simmons has yet to play a single game since the Brooklyn Nets acquired the disgruntled point guard in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. But, after a positive workout on Sunday, there’s a glimmer of hope that Simmons recovered from his back injury and can finally make his debut in the first round of the playoffs.

Ben Simmons Brooklyn Nets back injury return playoffs first round
Ben Simmons joined the Brooklyn Nets during warmups in the final game of the regular season, but he’s yet to appear in a game due to a back injury. (Image: Getty)

For now, Simmons won’t suit up for the Nets in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament.

The Nets (44-38) finished the regular season in seventh place, which means they’ll host the Cleveland Cavs (44-38) in the play-in tournament on Tuesday. The winner locks up the #7 seed and a date with the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. The loser will meet the winner of the Atlanta Hawks/Charlotte Hornets game to determine the #8 seed and the first-round opponent of the top-seeded Miami Heat.

The Nets are +600 odds to win the 2022 NBA championship making them the third-highest team on the futures board at DraftKings. The Nets are also +350 odds to win the Eastern Conference and secure a spot in the NBA Finals.

Simmons: slipped disc

Simmons suffered a back injury during his initial workouts after he joined the Nets in a trade. They knew it could take a couple of weeks to get his conditioning up to speed, but he suffered a setback with a herniated disc.

Rest didn’t work, so team doctors administered an epidural shot sometime in the middle of March. In the last week or so, Simmons has been progressing in his workouts.

Will Simmons be ready to play against the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat in the first round?

“Who knows?” said head coach Steve Nash. “There’s no timetable for his return right now. So, he’s clearly got some markers to hit. He’s not even going full speed on the court or on the post. So the timetable is not set. But it’s positive. At least he’s moving around a little bit. Still, one-on-zero stuff. He still has a lot of milestones to reach.”

Simmons didn’t play a single game this season with the 76ers or Nets. He demanded a trade in the offseason, and the 76ers waited until the morning of the trade deadline to work out a stunning blockbuster deal for James Harden.

“Ben will continue to work hard and rehabbing,” added Nash. “And whenever the time comes, we’ll be grateful. He looks really positive and happy and encouraged and is just working away at his rehab.”

With or without Simmons, the Nets are dangerous with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the starting lineup. Durant looked great since returning to action after a sprained knee. Irving has been cleared to play in all home games after New York City rolled back its health mandate to allow all athletes to play regardless of vaccination status.