New York Notes: Simmons, Durant, Payne, Sims

A pair of outside orthopedic specialists who spoke to Brian Lewis of The New York Post expressed skepticism that Ben Simmons will play for the Nets this season due to his ongoing back issues. However, head coach Steve Nash remains confident that Simmons will return, telling reporters on Tuesday that he has “extremely high hopes” about seeing the three-time All-Star before the end of the regular season.

“He’s just doing his rehab, strengthening,” Nash said, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “We’re still doing that side of things rather than court work right now.

“… The biggest thing we’ve tried to do is to have him be involved in everything. The traveling is the one caveat where sometimes you’re weighing the cost-benefit of him on airplanes 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.”

The Nets have just 14 games left on their regular season schedule, and presumably would be reluctant to bring back Simmons in the middle for a play-in game of in the middle of the playoff series if he hasn’t gotten at least a few regular season reps under his belt.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • Nets star Kevin Durant missed too much time this season to be a legitimate MVP candidate, but John Hollinger of The Athletic believes Durant could be the league’s current “Most Dangerous Player” — in other words, the player opponents fear most in a short-term situation like a fourth quarter or playoff series.
  • The University of Louisville appears to be zeroing in on Knicks assistant Kenny Payne as its top head coaching candidate, sources tell Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated. Forde cautions that nothing is definite yet, but says if talks between the two sides go well, Louisville could announce a deal with Payne before the end of the week.
  • With the Knicks leaning more on rookie center Jericho Sims as of late, Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post suggests that the possibility of losing big man Mitchell Robinson in free agency this offseason might be more palatable than it initially appeared. After appearing in just 18 of New York’s first 59 games and averaging 6.5 minutes per contest, Sims has played in the team’s last nine contests, logging 13.9 MPG. He had arguably his best game in Sunday’s loss to Brooklyn, scoring six points on 3-of-3 shooting and grabbing 10 rebounds in a season-high 23 minutes.
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