Ben Simmons can play for the Nets against the Celtics in the NBA playoffs

Ben Simmons and his bad back are in a race against time hoping to get on the pitch before the Nets’ season ends.

“If [Simmons plays], we’re crossing that bridge when we get there,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum said Wednesday as Boston prepared to host the Nets in Sunday’s opener of their first-round playoff series. “But right now we’re just focusing on the guys who have them at this moment.”

Nets coach Steve Nash would neither confirm nor disprove this A report from The Athletic that Simmons could make his season debut as early as Game 3 of the first-round series. But Nash has confirmed the injured All-Star, who is suffering from an L-4 herniated disc, has made progress and his recovery is accelerating.

“I have no idea [about Game 3]. I don’t know where these reports came from. We don’t have an update on the schedule so I don’t think that came from us,” said Nash, who confirmed Simmons has been better since getting an epidural when the Nets played in Orlando on March 15. “Yeah, I’d say heavier progress in the last week than the first three weeks or so after that.

Ben Simmons sits on the Nets’ bench during Tuesday’s play-in game against the Cavaliers.

“He moves more, he shoots, he moves a little on the court in a one-on-zero environment. So definitely positive signs that it’s improving and moving and all that stuff. But like I said, he wasn’t running at full speed or playing against anyone, so there are a lot more markers to hit.

Simmons has been through this phase before. He was in the midst of a run-up to play when he suffered a setback sometime between February 26 and March 3.

After orthopedists told the Post that Simmons would likely need an epidural, he received just such an injection. And on April 7, a league source said it was paying dividends, though she admitted time was running out.

“It looks like he’s doing a little bit better,” the source told The Post. “It’s just a matter of timing. The problem is that the season is coming to an end. But he does [more]. He’s starting to move a little more, AlterG, stuff like that. So… we have to be patient with that. I don’t think he’ll need a procedure, but you just have to be patient with it.”

The Nets’ play-in win over Cleveland on Tuesday earned them a postseason spot. Game 3 against the Celtics isn’t until April 23, and if the series goes the distance, Game 7 wouldn’t be until May 1.

“It will be difficult to imitate [Simmons] to be with Brooklyn because we didn’t see him play with them,” said Boston head coach Ime Udoka, who was an assistant with the 76ers in 2019-20 when Simmons was with Philadelphia. “Of course I coached him two years ago and a lot of guys have played with or against him, so we know what he is. Obviously after a year away there will be some rust and some unpredictability in terms of execution with his team.

“But we know his game, we know what he’s doing and if nothing has happened in the last year we know how to attack him and manipulate certain things to that extent. But it’s tough because he hasn’t played with this team so who knows how [he’ll] be used with him.” Ben Simmons can play for the Nets against the Celtics in the NBA playoffs


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