Nets coach Steve Nash says Ben Simmons in 'good place mentally,' return still unclear

Simmons has not played an NBA game since May.
BROOKLYN, New York -- While it remains unclear exactly when Ben Simmons will return to the floor and join the Brooklyn Nets, the 25-year-old swingman is in a "good place mentally," according to coach Steve Nash.

Simmons, who was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers in a deal centered around James Harden, has not played an NBA game since May after requesting a trade out of Philadelphia -- citing his mental health as the primary reason.

"I think he's in a pretty good place mentally," Nash said prior to Monday night's game against the Sacramento Kings. "And if we work with him here, in conjunction with his physical ramp-up, to make sure he's comfortable on and off the floor, I think he'll be ready to play mentally when he's physically ready."

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Nash said there is still no firm timeline regarding when Simmons returns to the floor. The former All-Star joined his new teammates for Monday's shootaround (and was on the bench for Monday night's game), but Nash said Simmons was only taking some physical assessment tests so that the staff could see where he was starting from with the Nets.

"That's on the performance team," Nash said. "They're going to walk through an assessment and his return to play and ramp-up and all that. It's been a long period of non-NBA activity, so we'll see how they put his program together and how long it takes."

Nash said the final call on when Simmons plays would be a "joint decision" between Simmons and the Nets' staff.

"We have to put him in a position to have the necessary conditioning underneath him and to feel safe with it," Nash said. "And then he also has to feel confident and comfortable that the time has come. So whenever that is, hopefully there's a great partnership on those decisions."

Nash said that whenever that time does come for Simmons, it won't be because of how much the Nets have been struggling recently. They broke an 11-game losing streak Monday night by beating the Kings, but still are just 30-27.

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"I think it has to come naturally," Nash said. "It hurts to suffer like this and lose games. At the same time, we have to have the big picture in mind. And while we go out and try to win every night, we can't skip steps. We have to be as thoughtful and as methodical with our approach as we can.

"And if it all comes together seamlessly, that'd be great; but if not, we stick to our process and continue to build that cohesion and understanding, and whatever time it takes, it takes."

The Nets remain upbeat about how Simmons will ultimately fit and the way they'll be able to play when he is on the floor.

"I think we'll be able to play really fast," Nets big man Nic Claxton said after shootaround. "Getting out in transition. We'll definitely be able to switch a lot on defense, having a lot of length out there, have some good groups. And I think it's going to be a lot of fun."
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