Australian NBA star Ben Simmons has had successful back surgery and will begin rehab in three weeks, aiming to make his Nets debut in the 2022-23 pre-season.
Down 3-0 in their NBA first-round play-offs series, the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday ruled Ben Simmons out for Game 4 against the visiting Boston Celtics.
Simmons was widely expected to make his season and team debut on Monday night after a lengthy ramp-up period while dealing with a back injury.
But ESPN reported that Simmons awoke with back soreness Sunday, and he and the Nets agreed to play it safe and keep him out.
With the Australian having courted controversy all season following his ugly falling out with the Philadelphia 76ers, the decision has been slammed by the basketball world, with Simmons described as ‘pathetic’ by analyst Stephen A. Smith.
“This is one of the most pathetic situations that I’ve ever seen in my life,” Smith told ESPN.
“I feel bad for anyone who’s his teammate. He quit on LSU, he quit on the Philadelphia 76ers, and now he ain’t showing up for the Brooklyn Nets.
“We can point to all the excuses, all the rationale behind it that we want to. I do recall, despite him not playing, he still filed a grievance to collect $20 million that he has not earned.
“He ain’t going to war, he’s not going to the Octagon, he’s not going in a boxing ring. It’s pulling teeth to get this man to play basketball. It’s pathetic. It’s sad.
“And at the end of the day, when the NBA gets in the collective bargaining table, and they go after the players in terms of a pay-for-play stipulation in the collective bargaining agreement, it’s going to be called the Ben Simmons Rule.”
Twitter has since exploded with near-universal condemnation of Simmons, with NBA analyst Bill Simmons joking that the Australian is ‘now targeting Game 7 or Game 8’ for his return – with the Nets 3-0 down in the best-of-seven series.
The former Philadelphia 76ers star was cleared for contact last week and participated in more live drills at practice, including a 4-on-4 drill.
The No.2 seed Celtics defeated the No.7 seed Nets 109-103 on Saturday night to move ahead by a daunting margin.
No team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a play-off series.
Simmons, acquired in a blockbuster trade in February that sent James Harden to the Sixers, has yet to play a game in a Nets uniform.
The Australian forced his way out of Philadelphia over a fractured relationship with 76ers coach Doc Rivers and teammate Joel Embiid.
The 25-year-old was the No.1 overall pick in the 2016 draft. He averaged 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game with the 76ers.