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Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons could return sooner rather than later

When the Nets tip off the proverbial second half of the season Thursday night against Boston, don’t expect Kevin Durant or Ben Simmons to be on the court. But it sounds like the duo could be playing sooner rather than later.

Both were on the court doing individual work Tuesday as the Nets returned from the All-Star break. And Brooklyn GM Sean Marks said though neither are likely to play in the next several days, he didn’t rule out the possibility one or both playing fairly quickly after their ramp-up.

“All I can say is I left the gym right before coming over here and I [saw] those guys on the court doing their individual workouts,” Marks told a group of Nets season-ticket holders at Barclays Center.

“Depending when they go, we’ve got to see how they respond to days like [Tuesday], and we’ll go forward with this. It’s probably going to be tough, to be honest, to be playing in the next three or four days. But we’ll see how it all plays out. I’m certainly not going to bet against either one of those guys.”

Nets forward Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons (left) react during their team's game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 16, 2022.
Ben Simmons and Kevin Durant
Jason Szenes/New York Post

The Nets’ only full practices over the next couple of weeks are Wednesday before facing the Celtics then March 5 before embarking on a three-game road trip that starts against those same Celtics and ends March 10 versus the 76ers. It’s a return to Philadelphia that Simmons has said he hopes to be ready to make.

Durant has been out since hurting his MCL on Jan. 15 but returned to doing individual on-court work a couple weeks ago. Brooklyn is just 7-16 without him in the lineup this season, including 4-13 since his injury.

Meanwhile, Simmons has yet to make his debut. Acquired at the deadline for James Harden, he had sat out this season citing mental health issues. After forcing a move from the 76ers, his Nets debut “is going to be more like weeks rather than months” according to ESPN. A two-week timeline for Simmons would put him in line for that aforementioned road trip, and Philadelphia.

Marks said the season’s inconsistent start taught him a few things.

“Anytime you have to go through the roller-coaster ride of an NBA season and what we’ve embarked on four months ago, it’s got its ups and downs,” Marks said. “It’s through that adversity and through those down moments that you know who you can rely on, who you can put your arm around and who you can ask questions to and who’s there to support and who’s in this for the right reasons.”

As far as why the Nets were willing to deal away Harden for Simmons, Marks said the 25-year-old is a perfect fit and has been on the Nets’ wish list for a while.

“No secret: He’s an elite NBA basketball player. We’ve had our eyes on him for quite some time, truth be told. His versatility stands out, just what he can do on both ends of the court offensively and defensively. It’s how he fits with that group, what we need, where our holes are,” Marks told the ticket holders.

“Ben, he can lead the break, a guy that can grab a defensive rebound and go, and everyone else can just fill the lane. I don’t know if he’s a point guard, I don’t know if he’s a 4 -man, I don’t know if he’s a 5-man. But I do know he’s a hell of a basketball player. So we’re excited about him.”

Simmons has spent months working out in various South Jersey locales. His former high school coach, Kevin Boyle, took in one of the workouts, and said Simmons looked fit.

“I went over and watched him work out, caught up with him a little bit,” Boyle told The Post. “It was good to see him. At that point he looked like he was working hard in this game. He was trying to stay ready, so I don’t think it’ll take him too long to get on the court and get playing. Obviously playing against other people is different, but I think he’ll be fairly ready.”

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