It's been five months since Ben Simmons last appeared in an NBA game. After sitting out the entire 2021-22 season, Simmons was sidelined during this year's All-Star break and later shut down due to a nerve impingement in his surgically repaired back. Three months removed from the end of the Brooklyn Nets' season, Simmons, who has spent over the last month rehabbing in Miami, hasn't worked out in a game setting:

“He’s not doing 3-on-3 or 5-on-5 yet,” Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks said Sunday at Summer League.”I was down there two weeks ago with him and the training staff and saw the progress. Happy to report he’s in great physical shape and also mentally. He’s rearing and chomping at the bit to get out there. We’ve got time. This is not something we’re going to rush him back in to play 5-on-5 in the next couple of weeks. But he’s progressing – he’ll be ready to go hopefully very, very soon. ”

Rumors of Simmons returning for the FIBA World Cup made headlines after Australia head coach Ben Goorjian said there was “a really good chance” the former number one pick would suit up in late August. However, the Nets and Simmons later informed Basketball Australia that he would sit out to focus on his rehab process.

“We kind of ran out of time for him to come back and represent Australia,” Marks said. “It just wasn’t the right thing to do to put him out there without playing and rush it.”

“The decision was a combination of us and Ben. We worked hand in hand throughout his rehab to bring him back to speed. The Brooklyn Nets had a say in this. We’re going to be led by the athlete as well. And I think this was made in Brooklyn’s best interest and Ben’s long-term health.”

After undergoing a microdiscectomy on his back last summer, Simmons played 42 games this season while battling knee, calf, and back injuries. He struggled to resemble anything near his old form, averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game. The slew of extended absences and lackluster play has made the three-time All-Star an afterthought in the discussion surrounding Brooklyn's future.

However, Marks is still holding out hopes that the 26-year-old can return to the dominant form of his Philadelphia days.

“The hope is that he returns to that level of play. I mean, if he was 35 years old, I wouldn't honestly be able to tell you that. But I think knowing that he's mid-20s and he has still hopefully not reached his prime, we’re going to make sure he can get back out there and get back to that form,” Marks said. “And hopefully we see we see his game even evolve past that. But health is going to be the key to him.”

Simmons is Brooklyn's highest-paid player with two years and $78 million remaining on his contract. If healthy this season, he'll join a Nets core predominately in the same age range with Mikal Bridges (26), Cam Johnson (27), Nic Claxton (24), and Spencer Dinwiddie (30) headlining the roster.