ORLANDO, Fla. — The Nets declined to give a timeline for when Ben Simmons will return to the field. And although coach Steve Nash said he has “extremely high hopes” that the All-Star will play this regular season, hope isn’t the same as confidence or even optimism.
Simmons, acquired from the 76ers in a trade from James Harden, has not played since June 20, first in Philadelphia and now since his trade with the Nets. Back pain, for the fourth time in two years, has hampered this process. Several orthopedic specialists told the Post they doubted the All-Star would return to action by the April 10 regular-season finale.
“He’s just doing his rehab, getting stronger and more, he’s healthy. That side of things rather than the groundwork right now,” Nash said ahead of the Nets’ 150-108 rout of the Magic on Tuesday.
When asked how much he hoped Simmons would adapt in the regular season, Nash replied, “We’re extremely hopeful to see him in the regular season.”
With only 13 games left in the regular season, Simmons wasn’t even allowed to run and sprint, let alone practice. His back is problematic enough that the Nets didn’t fly him on their last road trip to Boston and Charlotte, and he didn’t accompany them here, just to spare him the flights.
“Travel is the only caveat where sometimes you weigh the cost-benefit of it over planes and buses and different beds,” Nash said. “We would like him to travel, to be with the team all the time; but we also have to weigh this scenario.
Seth Curry (left ankle pain) and Cam Thomas (back contusion) were out against the Magic, but their status for Wednesday’s home game against the Mavericks remains undecided.
“It’s always day to day for sure,” Nash said. “I think we’ll have to decide [Wednesday] how they feel, what they look like and see if they are ready to go.
LaMarcus Aldridge (hip), Joe Harris (ankle), David Duke Jr. (G-League) and Day’Ron Sharpe (G-League) were all absent.
Nic Claxton took over the backup center minutes with Aldridge sidelined, averaging 7.7 points on .667 shooting, five rebounds and 1.7 blocks in the previous three games heading into Tuesday, and a total of +23.
“He had some really good times in November, early December where he really impacted our team, winning in the fourth quarter defensively, moving into a switching defense,” Nash said. “He was exceptional for a period at the beginning of the year.
“And whether something breaks down here or he comes back to this level, he gives us such a great alternative with his athleticism, his defensive versatility. And the pace where he can really play and fly in the screens and roll offensively makes us very difficult to keep up with when he’s on the court as well. So we expect him to play with that energy and that fire, and when he does, he’s really effective.
Barclays Center will host this year’s NBA Draft on June 23. … The New York Nets 1974 and 1976 ABA championship banners, once hung in the Nassau Coliseum, were auctioned off last week for $7,878.
Nash said he had no idea bringing Kyrie Irving into the locker room on Sunday was a fined offense.
” I did not know. It never crossed my mind,” Nash said. “I was unprepared for this event. It didn’t seem like a big deal.