Five weeks have passed since Ben Simmons last appeared in a game for the Brooklyn Nets. There has been little indication that he will anytime soon. Despite insistence that the three-time All-Star is “progressing”, head coach Jacque Vaughn has been unable to provide a timetable for Simmons' return.
Vaughn notably denied rumors on four separate occasions about the team potentially shutting Simmons for the season. Yet the coach again deflected when asked Thursday if he envisions the former number-one pick returning in time for the playoffs:
“I don’t even think that far ahead. I don’t even complicate my life that way,” Vaughn said. “I’m concerned about today’s game and if those questions present themselves I’ll be more than willing to see how he fits with the group and answer them at that time, but I don’t even wanna look that far ahead.”
Vaughn did say last week that Simmons had progressed to on-court workouts with no setbacks, which he called an encouraging sign. However, he said Thursday that the 26-year-old has not yet rejoined the team in practices:
“It has not been with teammates. I’ll say that piece of it,” Vaughn said of Simmons' workouts. “He hasn’t scripted with our second group, first group, or anything of that nature… Ben’s in the same position he was the last time I talked to you. Nothing further to comment on.”
Vaughn reported a flare-up in the big man’s knee before Brooklyn’s first game back from the break, marking Simmons' third extended absence due to the ailment. Simmons said he had the knee drained and received a PRP injection at the end of the break, a process he also underwent in early November. The team later revealed he was also experiencing inflammation in his surgically-repaired back.
The uncertainty of Simmons' situation underscores the disappointment of his 2022-23 campaign after he sat out all of last season. The Aussie has missed 30 games and counting while dealing with knee, calf and back injuries. When on the floor, the first-year Net has produced at nowhere near his accustomed level, averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists.
Those struggles pushed Simmons out of Brooklyn's starting five before the All-Star break, at which time he said he had “no idea” what his role would be moving forward. Vaughn shared that uncertainty, saying “challenges lie ahead” in regards to implementing Simmons to the Nets' new-look roster.
Time is running out for Simmons to return ahead of the playoffs with 10 games left in the regular season. Brooklyn is battling to avoid the play-in amid a four-game losing streak which has forced them into a tie with Miami for sixth place in the East.