Stephen A. Smith: Ben Simmons ‘swears he’s ready to go’

Nets star Ben Simmons feels good.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said he ran into Simmons and had a conversation with the star forward who has yet to play a game in a Nets jersey.

Smith, while on a rant about Kevin Durant’s holdout potential in Brooklyn, said he and Simmons are now on better terms. He also said Simmons told him he’s ready to play – now.

“He’s ready to go,” Smith said Monday morning on ESPN’s First Take. “He swears he’s ready to go.”

This is a positive development for Simmons, whose lingering back troubles required a midseason epidural and ultimately a microdiscectomy procedure this offseason.

Simmons did not play the front half of the season citing mental health issues that kept him off the floor while he forced a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Nets for James Harden. When he arrived in Brooklyn, he continued to cite mental health issues, but while ramping up his conditioning, Simmons aggravated a back injury that dated back to 2020.

A healthy Simmons is critical for the Nets’ chances of assembling a competitive team, regardless of Durant’s status. Durant requested a trade on June 30, then reiterated that request to Nets governor Joe Tsai over the Aug. 7 weekend, issuing Tsai an ultimatum: either trade him, or fire both general manager Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash.

Tsai responded to reports of the ultimatum with support for both Marks and Nash on Twitter.

“Our front office and coaching staff have my support,” the Alibaba magnate tweeted. “We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets.”

Getting a healthy Simmons on the floor is in the best interest of the Nets, regardless of whether or not Simmons is more willing to take jump shots. When healthy, he is a top-three perimeter defender in all of basketball, a premier athlete and one of the best playmakers at 6′10″ the NBA has seen.

He can also play multiple positions, and the Nets plan to use him both as a center and point guard.

If Simmons is healthy and ready to go for training camp, the Nets can continue to compete at a high level, especially if Kyrie Irving remains a Net, motivated on a one-year deal. They can also continue to sell Durant on staying in Brooklyn – despite his desire to play elsewhere – because a healthy Simmons gives the Nets a Big Three that can compete for a championship.

Simons has not played since the Atlanta Hawks eliminated his Philadelphia 76ers in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Both Doc Rivers and last year’s MVP runner-up Joel Embiid blamed Simmons’ unwillingness to shoot as a chunk of the reason the team came up short. Simmons took just four, six and four shots in Games 5, 6 and 7 of the series

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