Three-time NBA All-Star Ben Simmons says he is simply grateful be back on the court after making his long-awaited debut for the Brooklyn Nets in preseason on Monday.

Simmons played 19 minutes in the Nets' 127-108 loss to his former franchise, the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.

The Australian guard scored six points with five assists and four rebounds in his return, after mental health and injury issues meant he did not play at all last season, even after being traded from the 76ers to the Nets in February.

"I'm grateful just to be able to step on that floor," Simmons said. "Step on an NBA floor again. I had a lot of fun out there.

"That's the one thing, I thought I was going to be nervous, but I wasn't nervous. I was excited."

Simmons' return, which was rusty at times, marked 470 days between games for the 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year.

It is also the first time the Nets have fielded Simmons alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, offering excitement for the franchise.

"Ben's playing with a totally different unit than he has in the past, different style," Nets head coach Steve Nash said.

"It's going to be ugly at times, but I thought as the half wore on you definitely started to see glimpses of the potential. The way the ball moved. The way they were hounding the basketball defensively.

"I thought Ben looked pretty good overall and grew into the game through the half."

Simmons admitted that working alongside Durant and Irving would take time but he was excited by the learning process as the Nets build cohesion.

"It was fun messing up because I know how good we can be," Simmons said. "And seeing just different looks and opportunities there with Kevin and Ky and Joe [Harris]. Seeing where they want the ball and just how things are going to work and flow.

"But the only way you learn is to make mistakes so I had a few out there tonight and I can go back and watch film and say I know what I did wrong and how to fix that, so it's all a learning process for me so it's good."

Kevin Durant said he’s looking forward to another season with the Brooklyn Nets, instead of looking back on a tumultuous offseason that saw the NBA superstar request a trade and reportedly ask for his coach and general manager’s dismissal.

"Can we move on past that at some point?" Durant told reporters following Friday’s practice. "I know it’s an interesting story. I know that it took up most of the offseason and drama sells. I get that, but I didn’t miss any games, I didn’t miss any practices.

"I’m still here, so hopefully we can move past that."

Durant is back for a third season in Brooklyn after eventually rescinding the trade demand that created a firestorm around NBA circles for much of the summer. The 2013-14 league MVP and two-time NBA Finals MVP acknowledged during Monday’s media day that he’s no longer at odds with the organisation after ironing out his differences in a lengthy discussion with team owner Joe Tsai in August.

"I was upset," Durant stated. "And as a family, they understood that I was upset, some of the stuff they agreed with. So we talked about it, and it was over a couple of months, a couple of weeks, towards the end of that where we talked about it.

"We came out and we voiced all our concerns about how we can all be better. And it just worked out from there, and I’m glad I’m here now."

Durant refused to expound on the rumours that he also requested the firings of head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks following the Nets’ disappointing and injury-plagued 2021-22 season.

"There’s a lot of (stuff) that was inaccurate," he said. "But it’s like I don’t want to go through it right now."

Nash also said earlier this week that he didn’t entirely believe the reports that Durant had asked for his ousting.

"I never thought that was 100 per cent," he said. "It’s not black and white like that, so there was a lot of factors. A lot of things behind the scenes. A lot of things that are reported are not 100 per cent accurate. So you get fragmented bits of truth. You get things that are flat out not true. It happens. So I never really got caught up in all that stuff.”

With his differences behind him, Durant said he’s eagerly awaiting the new season and the chance for the Nets to erase the memory of a turbulent 2021-22 campaign that saw the franchise trade disgruntled All-Star James Harden midseason and had Kyrie Irving limited to just 29 games, in large part due to New York City’s vaccination requirement that prevented the star point guard from playing most of the team’s home games.

The Nets also head into 2022-23 with a healthy Ben Simmons, the key player Brooklyn received from the Philadelphia 76ers in the Harden trade. The three-time All-Star has yet to appear in a game with the Nets and missed all of last season due to a lingering feud with his former team and a back injury that later required surgery.

"When you look at the grand scheme of things, we haven’t been healthy at all for two years," Durant said. "Each playoffs we didn’t have major guys, (they) miss minutes. Not just role players, but guys that make a lot of money.

"When you got $50 million dollars on your bench this last playoffs with Joe [Harris] and Ben and then the playoffs before that, I want to see what our team looks like in full, with guys being healthy, with us having a little bit of continuity. So we’ll see what happens."

The way Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash sees it, it does not matter if Ben Simmons ever takes a shot for his team because he does so many other things well.

Two-time NBA All-Defensive First Teamer Simmons is set to make his debut for the Nets this season after he missed all last season while waiting for a trade out of Philadelphia and then dealing with rehab from back surgery as well as ongoing mental health issues.

"Very unique," Nash said of Simmons after the second full practice of training camp on Wednesday. "That's what makes Ben great.

"That's why I don't care if he ever shoots a jump shot for the Brooklyn Nets. He's welcome to, but that is not what makes him special and not what we need. He's a great complement to our team, and he's an incredible basketball player because of his versatility."

The Nets have the luxury of having two standout scorers on their roster in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, which should allow Simmons to play a more wide-ranging role.

"I think they'll have a certain element of cohesion out of the gates," Nash said of his star trio. "Because they're all really good basketball players, but hopefully it's something that evolves. And they can continue to find ways to make each other better. I think that's the beauty, that they actually fit really well together, but it may take time."

With Durant and Irving handling the bulk of the offense, Simmons will be free to focus on defense and rebounding while creating open looks for his star teammates.

"You're playing with some great NBA players, some of the greatest," Simmons said. "So, for me, it's just playing alongside them, figuring out where they want their shots, how they move, different spots on the floor where I need to be. It's just timing."

Simmons' career 8.1 rebounds per game should benefit the Nets, who lost one of the league's best rebounding guards when James Harden was dealt to the 76ers.

"He helps us for sure defensively, rebounding," Nash said. "And not only the talent he has, but also just size. Overall team size is something we struggled with."

Nash said he wouldn't have a problem giving the 6-foot-10, 230-pound Simmons minutes at centre when the situation calls for it.

"If he's the 'lone big,' that's a role we would definitely play him at," he said. "But he's also our playmaker and point guard."

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash said there are no lingering ill effects from Kevin Durant’s trade request or his demand that Nash be fired this summer. 

Nash told reporters Tuesday that he met with Durant last month to "move forward" and "clear the air".   

"We're fine," Nash said after the Nets' first practice of the season. "We're good. Ever since we talked, it's been like nothing's changed. I have a long history with Kevin. I love the guy. Families have issues. We had a moment and it's behind us. That's what happens. It's a common situation in the league. 

"We all were hurting, seething, to go through what we went through last year, not being able to overcome all that adversity. Sometimes you lose perspective because you expect to win, but the reality is we were able to talk and discuss what we can improve on from last year, and also keep perspective. We went through a ton of stuff."

Durant shook the NBA this offseason when he demanded to be traded, citing the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat as his preferred destinations.  

When it became clear that an ideal trade was not imminent, Durant met with Nets owner Joe Tsai and reportedly said he was willing to remain in Brooklyn if Nash and general manager Sean Marks were replaced.  

Nash pushed back Tuesday that Durant ever demanded a coaching change.  

"I never thought that was 100 percent," Nash said. "There was a lot of things. It's not black and white like that, so there was a lot of factors. A lot of things behind the scenes.

"A lot of things reported are not accurate. A lot of things that are reported are not 100 percent accurate. So you get fragmented bits of truth. You get things that are flat out not true. It happens... so I never really get caught up in all that stuff. 

"I'm going to hear it from Kevin when the time is right. I'm going to talk to Sean, I'm going to talk to all the parties involved. So you just work through it step by step. You don't overreact. We stay calm and work on communication and facts and here we are."

One of the central challenges for Nash this season will be to keep his team focused on the court despite the seemingly never-ending storm of storylines surrounding the Nets.  

"I think we're in a really good position to start the season," Nash said. "And regardless of the way everyone wants to talk about drama all the time, we've been through this. I played in the league for 17, 18 years… It does not impact me the way maybe it impacts people on the street or in the media, so it was never really as a big a deal to me. 

"I always thought we'd have our moment, we'd discuss it and we would choose a course and we're fortunate to all be in the gym working together again and excited. I think the energy's been outstanding."

Just hours after reports came out detailing how Kevin Durant gave the Brooklyn Nets an ultimatum about his future with the franchise, team owner Joe Tsai has sensationally thrown his support behind general manager Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash.

In a report from The Athletic's Shams Charania, it states Durant had a meeting with Tsai on Monday where he reiterated his trade request, as well as the bombshell that he will refuse to remain with the team unless Marks and Nash are both fired.

Durant, 33, is about to enter the first year of his four-year, $198million contract extension with the Nets, meaning there is no way for the two-time NBA Finals MVP to literally force his way out. To leave Brooklyn, the team will need to trade him, and there is no guarantee that is in their plans, despite Durant's requests.

In a clear statement of where his loyalty lies, Tsai tweeted: "Our front office and coaching staff have my support. We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets."

The Athletic's report also revealed the Nets "engaged in conversations with almost every team in the league" after Durant's initial trade request, but no team has been able to meet their asking price, which is said to be one of the biggest in NBA history.

The Boston Celtics, the Toronto Raptors and the Miami Heat are mentioned as the three teams most likely to aggressively pursue a trade, with 25-year-old Celtics wing Jaylen Brown considered the best player being included in negotiations.

Ben Simmons is making progress towards a return in the NBA playoffs after being cleared for contact says to Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash.

Simmons, who was traded to the Nets from the Philadelphia 76ers in February, has not played in the NBA all season after a fallout at his former franchise.

The 25-year-old three-time All-Star had struggled initially with him reconditioning after joining the Nets, before being plagued by a back problem which he is slowly overcoming.

"He's making progress," Nash told reporters after Tuesday's practice. "We'll just see how he responds and see if he's able to do more contact [on Wednesday]."

Simmons had joined in a 4-on-4 with teammates at a Monday workout with contact.

"So far, so good," Nash said. "I think he managed yesterday's activity well."

The Nets are currently 1-0 down in their seven-game first round playoffs series against the Boston Celtics.

Nash confirmed Simmons would not play in Game 2 on Wednesday but there is growing hope he will participate in the series in some capacity.

"I wouldn't be able to say anything about that because I'm not even sure how he's going to get through these weeks," Nash said.

"We have to also consider it's a nine-month absence or whatever it is, so it's not just like he had a six-week absence, so I think this is a pretty unique scenario. It's not as linear as maybe the other kind of in-season injuries."

It is looking increasingly likely that Ben Simmons will play for the Brooklyn Nets this season after reports that he is targeting a return during his side's first-round series against the Boston Celtics.

Shams Charania from The Athletic – who is also represented by Simmons' agency, Klutch Sports Group – said the Nets are hoping the return comes around April 25-29, which coincides with Game 4, Game 5 and Game 6 of the series.

Simmons is yet to play at all this season after sitting out of the early portion of the season with the Philadelphia 76ers due to mental health reasons, and has been sidelined with a back injury since arriving with the Nets via trade.

While everything is trending positively for Simmons' Nets debut to come in this year's playoffs, superstar teammate Kevin Durant said he would believe it when he sees it.

"I'm not expecting him to play," he said after practice on Thursday. 

"That's easier for me. I'm not putting any pressure on Ben to come out there and hoop. 

"So I'm not expecting him to do anything but just to get his body right and get healthy as fast as he can – in my mind, I'm preparing as if we're playing with the team we have."

Head coach Steve Nash was non-committal when asked about Simmons' chances.

"It's up to Ben's back," he said. 

"It's not up to me, any of us, other than his back… there's a chance Ben comes back, there's a chance he doesn't come back. 

"So I think for us, we got to focus on the group; support Ben and his journey to get back on the floor, but at the same time we don't have time to lose focus on the group that's playing.

"Ben's a franchise cornerstone – but right now it's about supporting him physically and mentally to get back on the floor, and coaching the group to put its best foot forward in the first few games of the series at least. 

"Internally, we're not sitting here saying 'Ben's returning in this series' – we'll see what happens."

Kevin Durant admits it will be tough to stop Jayson Tatum after the Brooklyn Nets progressed to the playoffs where they will face the Boston Celtics in a blockbuster first round series.

The Nets got past the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-108 in the play-in tournament on Tuesday to clinch the seventh seed, meaning they will face the second-seeded Celtics.

Durant scored 25 points with five rebounds and 11 assists, while ex-Celtics guard Kyrie Irving had 34 points with 12 assists.

The last time the two sides met, the Nets were beaten 126-120 by the Celtics on March 7 with Tatum scoring 54 points.

Tatum is seventh overall this season for points per game, averaging 26.9 shooting at 45.3 per cent from the field and 35.3 from three-point range.

"That's a tough question," Durant told reporters, when asked how to stop Tatum. "He's one of those players you've got to play hard and see what happens.

"He's just so talented, skilled and efficient at what he does. We've just got to play hard and I expect us to."

Irving added that keeping Tatum quiet would go a long way towards winning the series.

"It starts with really slowing JT down," Irving said. "He has a great feel playing against us. Everyone else around is very complementary to that attack."

Durant added: "[It's about] staying disciplined, playing together and playing with passion. I don’t have the schemes or the strategy to break it down to you. That's what every team needs to bring to win in the postseason."

The Celtics are one of the form teams in the NBA, going 35-12 since the turn of the year to finish the regular season with a 51-31 record.

Nets head coach Steve Nash said: "I'm really impressed with the Celtics, the job Ime [Udoka] has done. They've been able to build on that continuity.

"That group has been together for quite a while. They've made some tweaks and adjustments that have really improved their team both ends of the floor.  

"It'll be a great challenge for us. For a new group to go and play a team like that that's terrific at both ends is going to be something that hopefully brings the best out of us."

Steve Nash called the potential inclusion of Ben Simmons in the playoffs "another challenge" that he and the Brooklyn Nets would welcome.

Simmons, a three-time All-Star, is yet to play a game this season after his relationship with the Philadelphia 76ers broke down and he opted to sit out for mental health reasons until his trade could be organized.

The 2021 Defensive Player of the Year runner-up has also been dealing with a back injury since arriving in Brooklyn, which has kept him out of action since the All-Star break.

A recent report indicated it was unlikely that Simmons would play at all in the playoffs, but with an updated and upgraded prognosis, the Nets believe his return this year is not out of the question.

When asked about possibly integrating Simmons into the playoff rotation, Nash called it a good problem to have.

"Another challenge, but one that we'd welcome, clearly," Nash said of the 25-year-old.

"So, we'll see – if he's able to play at some point it would be great to incorporate him, and to try and learn as we go and see how he can help our team without having much history, or any history, with our group.

"The bottom line is we'd be adding a substantial talent to our team, so we really welcome him.

"He fits and he helps in a number of ways. We're in need of help, so we would welcome that challenge of trying to incorporate him in a playoff situation where he has no history with our team."

However, long-time teammate Seth Curry, who came over with Simmons in the trade that brought James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers, was not willing to look ahead to a potential return for the big Aussie.

"We're worried about the Play-In game right now," Curry said. 

"If Ben comes in, we'll try and integrate him as much as possible, but we feel like we're locked into this Play-In situation right now.

"If Ben does become available, we'll deal with that then, but we have to worry about who we have out there and focus on Cleveland. 

"I don't think anybody's going to be thinking about if Ben can come back, as a team. Maybe the coaches and front office – but as players, we're locked into the task at hand."

Ben Simmons will not feature for the rest of the regular season or the upcoming Play-In tournament, according to Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash.

Simmons is yet to debut for the Nets following his February trade from the Philadelphia 76ers, following his bitter and prolonged stand-off with the team that drafted him. The Australian guard has subsequently not played all season.

The former All-Star had an epidural last month to alleviate pressure in his back as he struggles to build his conditioning up to a level fit enough to see him return to action.

Simmons has started participating in limited practice, but Nash confirmed on Monday that the 25-year-old will not return before the end of the regular season, or for the Play-In, which takes place between April 12-15.

The Nets are on course to require two wins in the Play-In tournament to qualify for the playoffs, sitting in 10th place in the Eastern Conference after three defeats in their last four games, with an overall regular-season record of 40-38.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash remains optimistic that Ben Simmons will play at some point this season but has revealed the new signing has a herniated disk in his back.

Simmons is yet to debut for the Nets following his February trade from the Philadelphia 76ers, whom he fell out with over the off-season. The Australian guard has subsequently not played all season.

The former All-Star had an epidural last week to alleviate pressure in his back as he struggles to build his conditioning up to a level fit enough to see him return to action.

The Nets, who appear headed for the Play-In Tournament with a 37-34 record sitting eighth in the east, have only 11 regular-season games remaining, meaning the clock is ticking on Simmons.

"He's had this [herniated disks] a couple years ago, so he's had them throughout his career at some points," Nash told reporters prior to Sunday's game against the Utah Jazz.

"I guess there was a flare-up. I'm not sure when they recognised it was beyond a back flare-up and a herniated disc or what not, but somewhere along the line there, that was the reason for the epidural."

He added: "From what I know, he trained pretty hard for five, six months. He was in a great place. Unfortunately, I think there was a little flare-up at some point in there and it's just never quite turned the corner since.

"I think he had months of five, six days a week on court and was doing very well, so just unfortunate, but we stay the course. Hopefully a good resolution to this in the near future."

Simmons is yet to be cleared to return to practice although Nash said surgery had not yet been discussed.

"We still have high hopes that he can come back," Nash said. "He's had moments during his rehab where he's on the court doing some things and it looks like he's about to turn a corner, and then there's a little setback so I still feel optimistic that he can play for us."

Brooklyn Nets' new star acquisition Ben Simmons received an epidural injection while he was away from the team during the team's trip to Orlando.

Simmons is yet to play a game this season. He was traded by the Philadelphia 76ers after making himself unavailable due to mental health reasons following the fallout from their 2021 playoffs defeat to the Atlanta Hawks, while a back injury has delayed his Nets debut.

In Wednesday's press conference, coach Steve Nash said the hope was that the injection would assist the healing process.

Nash went on to say that the team will have to wait-and-see how Simmons reacts to the treatment, and that there is no current timetable for his return to practice.

Steve Nash joked Kyrie Irving produced more career highlights in the space of 12 minutes against the Orlando Magic than the Brooklyn Nets coach managed in his entire career.

Irving scored a career-high 60 points – the most for a Nets player in their NBA history – in Tuesday's 150-108 victory in Florida.

The seven-time NBA All-Star shot 20 for 31, which included eight of 12 on 3-pointers, and made 12 of 13 free throws in his 35 minutes on the court.

Forty-one of Irving's points came in the first half as he became the second Nets player over the past 25 years, after Deron Williams in March 2012, to have 40-plus points in a half.

It was an individual display that will long live in the memory, with Brooklyn coach Nash leading the tributes for the 29-year-old.

"He's just incredible. I felt like he had my career highlight reel in the first 12 minutes of the game," Nash said. 

"It's special to watch him every night – but it's special to watch him on nights like this, where he's in total control, total command. 

"He gets wherever he wants and is able to finish amongst the trees. It's just a pleasure to see it up close and to be a part of it."

 

Irving's 60-point display came a day after the Minnesota Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns also hit that mark against the San Antonio Spurs.

It marks the first time that two players have scored 60 points on successive nights in NBA since 1962.

There have now been seven 50-point games in the NBA in March, which is tied for the most in a single month since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976.

And Nets star Kevin Durant, who added 19 points in the win over Orlando, believes the division is now as strong as ever.

"The night after Karl Towns had an incredible performance, to then have Kyrie do it the next night, the league is in an incredible place right now," Durant said.

"I'm sure in the first quarter you saw it developing. Sixteen in the first and then midway through the second all of us on the bench are still looking.

"It's just like that every game for Ky, when you look up and, like, 'Damn, he got 10, 12, 14 points already'."

Durant scored 53 points in Sunday's win over the New York Knicks, making him and Irving the first team-mates in NBA history with 50+ points in back-to-back games.

"Making history, man. making history," Irving said when that stat was put to him. "Doing it with that guy is very special. But credit goes to our group. 

"Our guys in our locker room, they really believe in us, they really rock with us, there's not a doubt in our mind that they really believe that we can do something special. 

"And not just this year, but for years to come. We have a good group. And we're all sacrificing something that's bigger than ourselves."

He added: "When you're a kid scoring a bunch of points, it means something. When you're in the best league in the world doing it against the greatest, it means a little bit more."

The Nets have now won four games in a row to improve to 36-33 for the season, placing them eighth in the Eastern Conference.

Irving will not play against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday due to New York City's mandate requiring vaccination against COVID-19, though he intends to be in attendance.

"I'll probably wear a media pass," he joked. "It's a little awkwardness. 

"But I'll show up there with my family and get a warm embrace from New York, Brooklyn, everybody that's there to support the Nets and support our organisation, support me."

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash said he is hopeful of Ben Simmons debuting with his new team before the playoffs, but indicated it is far from a sure thing.

With only 14 games to play before the postseason begins, Simmons still has not been cleared to practice due to a back injury that has only worsened since arriving in Brooklyn.

The Nets have shown they can win without Simmons for the time being – including a dominant performance in Philadelphia against former team-mate James Harden – but to be a serious title contender, the former first overall pick will need to play a significant role.

Currently occupying the eight-seed in the Eastern Conference, Brooklyn have an uphill battle to try to make up the four games they sit behind the six-seed Cleveland Cavaliers to avoid the play-in tournament and secure a guaranteed playoff berth.

While he has not been able to participate in team practices, Nash said the team are trying to get Simmons as involved as possible and build the necessary chemistry, and that he has "extremely high hopes that we'll see him in the regular season".

"The biggest thing we've tried to do is to have him be involved in everything," Nash said. 

"The travelling is the one caveat, where sometimes you're weighing the cost-benefit of him on aeroplanes and buses and different beds. 

"When he's with us, we want him in every meeting, in every walkthrough, in every film session, whatever it may be, so he's around the group. 

"We'd love for him to travel, be with the team all the time, but we have to weigh that scenario as well."

While Simmons is a "perfect fit" for Brooklyn's team construction and style, according to Nash, there is no way to simulate on-court repetitions alongside stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

"I think he has a pretty good understanding [of what the Nets are doing]," the coach said.  "Now, has his focus been on learning what we're doing? No, it's been on getting better. 

"We've had him around, we want him to learn, but there's a lot going on when you're desperately trying to fight to get on the court.

"I don't expect him to be totally dialled in on what we're doing, because part of that is also feel; getting out there with your team-mates, seeing how it fits. 

"I think he'll be a perfect fit for our guys – but some of that stuff is also getting out there and doing it, learning on the fly, rather than reading it off the notes."

Kevin Durant hailed Kyrie Irving's season-high 50-point performance in the Brooklyn Nets' 132-121 win over the Charlotte Hornets as a "masterclass".

Durant took a backseat as the Nets point guard hit nine three-pointers, shooting at 79 per cent from the floor, making 15-of-19.

Irving became one of 22 players in NBA history with five 50-point games, while he also became the second guard – behind Michal Jordan – in the league to have multiple 50-point games while shooting 75 per cent or better from the floor.

"Everything he does is pure. It looked so easy tonight," Durant told reporters after the game. "I seen [sic] it in his eyes to start the game.

"He wanted to play better last game, so he came out tonight and wanted to impact the game from the start. He led us all night. It was an incredible performance.

“Younger players should watch this game and learn what it takes to score at that level. That was just a masterclass."

Nets head coach Steve Nash added to the praise of Irving, labelling him an "incredible player".

"He's incredible. He's a career-highlight reel every night," Nash said. "We have a special player on our hands. Overall, he's an incredible player and shot creator."

The result lifts Brooklyn to a 33-33 record, sitting eighth in the Eastern Conference ahead of the final push for the playoffs, having won only four of their past 21 games.

Durant added: "It's always good to get a win. We definitely want to play better than we did in the second half.

"We know we're fighting for our lives every game to get into the playoffs or the play-in. It's good to get the W."

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