Maybe Doc Rivers was right after all.
Ben Simmons is shrinking again under immense pressure and spotlight.
With the Brooklyn Nets facing elimination against the Boston Celtics on Monday night, Simmons suddenly woke up with back soreness Sunday morning after approximately 10 days of pain-free ramp up following recovery from a herniated disc, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The timing couldn’t come at the worst possible time as the Nets are one loss away from an embarrassing first-round sweep after being installed as the odds-on favorite before the season.
In the wake of the news, NBA legend turned TNT analyst Reggie Miller did not hold back and had a scathing remark about Simmons’ disposition.
Cmon MAN!!! Out for Game 4 when it was rumored you were going to make your debut. This dude has ZERO competitive ?.. As small a chance as the Nets have to come back in this series, you still have KD and Kyrie, all you need is to win ONE game and take it from there.. #ManUp pic.twitter.com/Y5smcnQkqZ
— Reggie Miller (@ReggieMillerTNT) April 24, 2022
Simmons hasn’t played since last year’s playoffs where he passed up a wide-open dunk in the crucial moments of the Philadelphia 76ers’ loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
It went downhill from there for Simmons.
And this latest development has only made it worse.
It was not only Miller who publicly voiced their displeasure about Simmons’ decision to sit out after raising hopes that he would play in Game 4. ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins and Stephen A. Smith and The Ringer’s Bill Simmons joined the conversation.
Ben Simmons has officially completed the biggest heist in NBA history. He really sat out an entire season! Carry on…
— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) April 24, 2022
Stephen A goes OFF on Ben Simmons
“This is on of the most pathetic situations that I've ever seen in my life”
(? @AhnFireDigital )
— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) April 24, 2022
Ben Simmons now targeting Game 7 or Game 8. Details to come.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) April 24, 2022
After the Nets lost the first two games on the road, Simmons ramped up his activity and talked to reporters about his planned return this season.
“It’s literally day-to-day,” Simmons told reporters on Friday. “So, I’ve had plenty of great days, which has been great for me in building up. So, we’re just trying to put those great days together and just keep building up to get back on the floor and play at that high level.”
Before Game 3, Nets coach Steve Nash said Simmons was fine and did not have any setback though he was non-committal on Simmons’ potential return in Game 4. He explained there are several factors
“I think it’s possible, but I’m not sure,” Nash told reporters. “It’s like I said before, it’s not a normal return to play, having been out for nine months and being injured as long as he has been at the back end of this — it’s been about two months now.”
It has been more than two months since the Nets acquired him as the centerpiece of the James Harden blockbuster trade.
“So it’s not just he got through three workouts. He’s ready to play, you know, there’s a lot of bigger picture and bigger context — how he’s feeling and how he would be to adapt to the environment. Now, it’s a little different than playing a game that is stashed away in the middle of the regular season. So, I think a few factors are at play here to evaluate when he’s ready to play,” Nash added.
When pressed if the result of Saturday’s game would determine Simmons’ status for Game 4, Nash skirted back to the main question.
“I think it’s really a matter of if Ben is ready to play whether it’s 3-0 or 2-1 or whatever the score in the series,” Nash said. “The bigger factor is, is he ready to play?”
Simmons answered with a resounding ‘No’ on Sunday.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo