Game 4 of the Nets-Celtics first round series went from a “target date” to the “planned debut” for Ben Simmons over the last week, but after Brooklyn fell behind in the series 3-0 on Saturday night, plans changed.
On Sunday afternoon, during the second quarter of Game 4 between the Warriors and Nuggets, the Nets released their injury report for Monday night that listed Simmons as officially OUT with continued back soreness. It wasn’t necessarily a shock when you factor in the context of the situation, as bringing him back for an elimination game would’ve been quite the gamble and put him in a place to be scapegoated for a loss.
However, if holding him out was an effort to protect Simmons from shouldering the blame of a potential sweep at the hands of the Celtics, it unfortunately did not work as Simmons was swiftly blasted by one usual suspect and one surprising one. Reggie Miller, who is typically one of the most positive figures in the NBA, took to Twitter and unloaded on Simmons in a way we rarely see from the Hall of Famer, saying he has “no competitive fire.”
Cmon MAN!!! Out for Game 4 when it was rumored you were going to make your debut. This dude has ZERO competitive 🔥.. As small a chance as the Nets have to come back in this series, you still have KD and Kyrie, all you need is to win ONE game and take it from there.. #ManUp pic.twitter.com/Y5smcnQkqZ
— Reggie Miller (@ReggieMillerTNT) April 24, 2022
That was a bit of a stunner to see Miller publicly rip Simmons like that, but it was no surprise to see Stephen A. Smith do the same when ABC’s halftime show aired shortly after the injury report released. Smith called out Simmons for being a “quitter” and listed off his exits from LSU, Philadelphia, and now the start of his Brooklyn tenure as proof.
.@stephenasmith reacts to Ben Simmons being out for Game 4:
“I feel bad for anybody who was his teammate. He quit on LSU, he quit on the Philadelphia 76ers and now, he ain’t showing up for the Brooklyn Nets.” pic.twitter.com/wrOrgCLziP
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 24, 2022
The entire Simmons saga has been bizarre to watch unfold this season, and in this instance it seems like most of the blame belongs on the shoulders of whomever was offering up the information to reporters that Game 4 was when he planned on returning, particularly since it came out after they had already gone down 0-2. Bringing him back facing elimination would’ve been setting him up to fail, but leaking that he was trying to get back on the court for Game 4 made it look like he was backing out on his new teammates. The Nets, at least publicly through Steve Nash, insisted there wasn’t a plan in place all along likely for this very reason, but for whatever reason, behind the scenes, some from the team or in Simmons camp wanted it known this was the plan and now Simmons is facing the backlash that comes with the optics of it all.