It has been over a month since Nets big man Ben Simmons has played in a basketball game. During that time, Brooklyn has provided little to no clarity on when the three-time All-Star will return. That uncertainty has been par for the course for Simmons over his last two NBA seasons.
He sat out all of last year while citing a back injury and mental health issues before missing three extended stretches early this season with knee soreness. Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn reported a flare-up in the big man’s knee before Brooklyn’s first game back from the All-Star break. He later revealed Simmons was also experiencing inflammation in his surgically-repaired back.
The development has led some to question whether Brooklyn will consider shutting Simmons down with 13 games left in the regular season. But Vaughn again dispelled that notion Thursday when asked if he anticipates the former number-one pick returning this season:
“I’m definitely operating under that belief, yes,” the coach replied. “There have been zero discussions, that’s been my go-to, about him not playing. We expect him to be back, we’re waiting for him to be back.”
Jacque Vaughn when asked if he anticipates Ben Simmons playing again this season:
“There have been zero discussions about him not playing. We expect him to be back, we’re waiting for him to be back.” pic.twitter.com/mlLKHV4n5c
— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) March 16, 2023
Simmons said he had his knee drained and received a PRP injection at the end of the break, a process he also underwent in early November. Vaughn said the 26-year-old has progressed to on-court workouts with no setbacks in his rehab process. Despite that, the coach was still unable to provide a timetable for Simmons’ return:
“It’s good to see him, good to see him back on-court getting some work in,” Vaughn said. “No timetable for you. The ultimate goal was that we don’t have a reoccurrence. We get feedback every time he’s on the floor, what the strengthening has done for both the back and the knee to see if we’re in a good place. So we’re just getting feedback from day to day to see how he responds. And there have been no setbacks, which is good.”
Simmons has missed 29 games this season after undergoing back surgery this offseason. When on the floor, the first-year Net has looked like a shell of his old self, averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists. Those struggles pushed Simmons out of the starting five before the All-Star break, leading him to say he had “no idea” what his role with the team would be moving forward.
Vaughn shared that uncertainty, saying “challenges were ahead” of Brooklyn in regards to implementing Simmons to the new-look roster. The coach said Thursday that the team is eager to get the Aussie back on the court but emphasized they will not rush his return.
“We’re just trying to get to a place where he feels good being back on the court,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal is to get him in a place where he’s not having soreness or inflammation and he’s ready to hoop. We want him back to hoop, he wants to back to hoop, and that is definitely the goal.”