Once upon a time the top storyline of the new-look Brooklyn Nets meeting the Philadelphia 76ers in the playoffs would have been Ben Simmons. However, the former number-one pick's dynamic in a Philly playoff setting is a moot point since Brooklyn shut the big man down for the rest of the season due to a nerve impingement in his back.
The season-ending injury comes after Simmons sat out the entire 2021-22 campaign and underwent a microdiscectomy on a bulging disk in his back during the offseason. Spencer Dinwiddie appeared on FanDuel TV Wednesday and discussed the big man's recovery process:
“He hasn’t been practicing,” Dinwiddie said. “I know his rehab is up to him with what he’s doing right now. He’s got to do what’s best for his body.”
Ben Simmons appeared in just 42 games this season. The three-time All-Star was clearly limited athletically by his back, averaging just 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game.
It was not long ago that Simmons was among the most dominant and physically-imposing players in the league. In four seasons with Philadelphia, the Aussie averaged 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game on 56 percent shooting from the floor. That stellar play earned him third-team All-NBA in 2020, as well as first-team All-Defense in 2020 and 2021.
Dinwiddie said he “sympathizes” with what Simmons is going through with his back injury and assured that all of his Nets teammates know what he is capable of when healthy:
“We all know the type of explosive and dominant player he can be on both ends of the floor when he’s healthy and he’s right,” he said. “I think the best thing for his career is to get right and not sacrifice too much for a playoff run.”
The Nets point guard also shut down claims that Ben Simmons isn't invested as a teammate amid his long list of absences:
“He’s around the guys, he’s being a great teammate,” Dinwiddie said. “You see a lot of things in the media that he’s not necessarily the highest character guy or something like that. That’s been farthest from the truth. He’s been in the locker room every day, he’s been cheering the guys on.”
Simmons has not spoken to the media since it was announced he would not return this season. The 26-year-old is under contract with Brooklyn for $78 million over the next two seasons.