The Brooklyn Nets are not expecting Ben Simmons to return this season after the three-time All-Star was diagnosed with a nerve impingement in his back, head coach Jacque Vaughn told reporters Saturday.

“Ben was going through the process of strengthening, being on the court, being reevaluated. During one of those reevaluations, the impingement presented itself,” Vaughn said. “He’s under the care and consulting with specialists to see what the next step is going to be moving forward.”

“He’s probably not going to join us for the rest of the year, in all honesty”

The former no. 1 overall pick has missed Brooklyn’s last 15 games. Vaughn initially reported a flare-up in Simmons’ knee before later revealing the Aussie was also dealing with back inflammation. During that time, the head coach repeatedly dispelled rumors that the Nets planned to shut down the 26-year-old for the rest of the season.

Simmons sat out all of last season while citing a back injury and mental health issues. He would eventually undergo back surgery during the offseason. That procedure, which was called a microdiscectomy, is meant to reduce pain that occurs when a herniated disc presses on a nerve root. The surgery has been performed on numerous NBA players including Brook Lopez, Michael Porter Jr. and Dwight Howard.

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A study by the National Library of Medicine found that players who had the surgery “played significantly fewer games the following season and had a larger decrease in Player Efficiency Rating” as compared to those with the injury who did not. However, it found that those who had the surgery typically return to their normal level of play in the second post-operative season and have longer careers.

Vaughn would not confirm Saturday whether the latest impingement is the same nerve on which Simmons had the operation.

“I think that’s where we’re gonna lean into the specialists and the consultation and I think those answers will come from the specialists,” the coach said.

Jacque Vaughn had no knowledge of whether Ben Simmons would need another surgery. The uncertainty has been par for the course during the LSU product’s disappointing 2022-23 campaign. Simmons has missed 31 games while dealing with knee, calf and back ailments. When on the floor, he has severely underwhelmed, averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists.

After being demoted from the starting five to the bench before the All-Star break, Simmons said he had “no idea” what his role with the Nets would be moving forward. Vaughn shared the sentiment, saying “challenges lie ahead” in regards to implementing Simmons to Brooklyn’s new-look roster.

Simmons is due $78 million over the next two seasons. The Nets are battling to avoid falling into play-in for the second consecutive season. Brooklyn has dropped to seventh in the Eastern Conference following a five-game losing streak.