The Brooklyn Nets’ roller-coaster season ended in surprising fashion Monday night, a sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics. The campaign began with championship aspirations around Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden and finished with questions surrounding the roster and everyone around it.
One of the Nets’ biggest of the offseason is can they work three-time NBA All-Star Ben Simmons back onto the floor — healthy in body and mind.
With the Nets facing elimination on Monday in Game 4 against the Celtics, Simmons pulled himself from his expected season debut, with sources saying he informed team officials on Sunday that his back felt sore. Everyone around the Nets organization had been given the impression that Simmons had zeroed in on Monday’s Game 4 as his debut date, and the franchise certainly was left searching for answers because of his inability to step on the floor in Brooklyn and what transpired in the first round.
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.
Nets officials informed Simmons that the franchise is willing to do whatever is needed to support him and provide him with any necessary resources. Brooklyn needed the 25-year-old on the court this season, but now both sides have an entire offseason to work through his situation and find a way for him to prove himself on the floor again. Both sides are expected to stay in communication and continue to work toward Simmons, who has three years and $114 million remaining on his contract, feeling ready to play again.