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Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal took aim at Ben Simmons over what he called a “punk move” after the former Philadelphia 76er was nowhere to be seen in the Boston Celtics‘ sweep of the Brooklyn Nets, despite rumors that he would make his debut for the Nets in Monday’s do-or-die Game 4.
The Nets were hopeful that Simmons, who was dealt to Brooklyn after James Harden was traded to Philadelphia in February, would make his debut with the team in the final game of the series with Boston leading 3-0, but on Sunday the team announced that he was ruled out with an ongoing back issue.
The Nets were eliminated from the playoffs following a 116-112 loss but even with all the issues one could pick out on the court, O’Neal focused on Simmons’ absence as part of the problem.
Ben Simmons of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during playoff game three against the Boston Celtics on April 23, 2022, at Barclays Center in New York City. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
“In the hood, we call this a punk move. You know, when things are going good – ‘I’m gonna play in Game 4.’ … Now that they lost (Game 3), ‘My back hurts.’ Well, if your back hurts, get some Icy Hot. I’ll send it to you. We call this a punk move,” he said on TNT’s “Inside the NBA.”
“Listen, if you’re not ready to play, you would get more respect from the people if you just say ‘I’m not ready to play.’ And don’t say nothing else. Don’t be shooting and saying ‘I’m coming back. I’m going to do this.’ That was a punk move.”
The Brooklyn Nets’ Ben Simmons works out before playoff game one against the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden in Boston on April 17, 2022. (Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
He continued: “If you’re not going to play, don’t say you’re going to play. I think you should step up to the challenge and try to help your team win but no, he went the punk move route. ‘I’m not going to play, my back hurt.’ We all know what that is. Ballers know what that is. Everybody else can be (saying) ‘Oh, he’s not ready,’ but us, guys that live this life, we know exactly what you’re doing, buddy.”
Simmons requested a trade and refused to play for the 76ers this season, citing mental health concerns. After being sent to Brooklyn, he began to experience back pain while trying to work his way back into shape.
Ben Simmons of the Brooklyn Nets stands for the singing of the national anthem during playoff game two against the Celtics at TD Garden on April 20, 2022, in Boston. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Simmons has since been working his way back from a herniated disk in his back and coach Steve Nash said before Game 3 on Saturday that the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft had no setbacks after a 3-on-3 scrimmage earlier in the day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.