Injuries have been the only constant in Brooklyn Nets star Ben Simmons’ career.
“Jacque Vaughn said Ben Simmons had an MRI, which revealed inflammation in the back,” reported Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. “Nets are trying to manage that while dealing with his knee soreness.”
Simmons has missed the last six games in a row and 11 of the Nets’ last 16 outings, initially with knee soreness. It was during the ramp-up to return from that that Vaughn revealed Simmons experienced discomfort in his back. Vaughn maintained there were no plans to shut Simmons down at this point but also offered no timetable for Simmons’ return.
“We want Ben back when he’s capable of being back for us,” Vaughn said via a video posted on Twitter by Erik Slater of Clutch Points. “The ‘day-to-day’ thing is just for me to say some term to [the media]. When the back gets better and when the knee gets better then he’ll be with us. So we want that to happen as soon as possible, but we also want to take care of him and make sure that those two things are good. So if you want to say day by day, we can agree to day by day, but we’re going to take care of him and try to get him healthy. We want him back as soon as possible.”
The start of Simmons’ career was delayed by a year as he suffered a foot injury that cost him his entire rookie campaign.
After back-to-back seasons with at least 79 appearances, the injury bug caught up to him again.
Simmons appeared in 57 in 2020 and 58 games in 2021 before sitting out the entire 2022 season with a back injury that required surgery this past offseason as well as mental health issues. It was a situation that did not sit well with all of his teammates.
“I got a lot to say about last year,” said Philadelphia 76ers forward Georges Niang during an appearance on-location for the ‘John Kincaide Show’ on 97.5 The Fan on February 24. “Ben Simmons kind of handicapped us at the beginning of last year, didn’t he? …“Last year was difficult because you didn’t know who you had.”
Vaughn has been forthcoming about the struggles of playing a healthy Simmons whose lack of offensive force makes him a tricky fit.
“It’s going to be some work that we have to do,” Vaughn said after the Nets’ loss to the New York Knicks on February 13 via the team’s official YouTube channel. “You just take a look at what the lineups could potentially look like. You put a big next to Ben, then you got to figure out what the spacing is around him. Then if you put a playmaker next to him, then you got to figure out what Ben looks like without the basketball. Then if you go small with Ben, then you got to figure out can you rebound enough with him…You see the challenges that lie ahead”
With a new starting lineup that features five players standing 6-foot-5 and plenty of defensive potential, the need to find a place for Simmons in order for the Nets to be successful has diminished greatly calling his future in Brooklyn even more into question.
Long Way Back to Being Ben Simmons
“People forget, I had back surgery,” Simmons said ahead of the Nets’ win over the Milwaukee Bucks on December 23 via the YES Network. “It’s not something that’s just automatically you’re good and you’re able to go out there and be yourself. It’s something I’m trying to build and just keep adding up because come playoffs, I gotta be that engine to attack and find my guys.”
With just 18 games to go, the lack of a timetable is most concerning even as the injuries begin to mount. He is still just 26 years old and with over $78 million due to him over the next two seasons.
But Simmons’ tenure in Brooklyn has been just as problematic as the end of his time in Philly, though he does not seem to be at odds with the front office at this point.
Nets Add Ben Simmons’ Former Teammate
New Nets big man Nerlens Noel and Simmons were teammates in 2017 during the latter’s actual rookie season which was erased by injury; a common theme among Sixers prospects at that time.
Noel’s addition fills a season-long need as much as it provides depth in the absence of Simmons who had been operating as the de facto backup center behind Nic Claxton. But the 6-foot-11 center has also dealt with his fair share of injuries leaving the position still unsettled to some degree.