The Brooklyn Nets still expect to get injured star Ben Simmons back at some point before the season ends according to head coach Jacque Vaughn. According to Vaughn via Tim Bontemps of ESPN, Simmons has progressed to on-court activities.
Vaughn declined to elaborate on just what those activities were but did say they are still not shutting Simmons down.
“Definitely operating under the belief [that Simmons will return], yes,” affirmed Vaughn before the Nets’ eventual loss to the Sacramento Kings via a video shared on Twitter by Erik Slater of Clutch Points on March 16. “There’s been zero discussions about him not playing. We expect him to be back. Waiting for him to be back. Watching the last Sacramento game, it was great to see him and his physicality versus [Domantas] Sabonis last time. So, looking forward to seeing that again for sure.”
Simmons has been out since the All-Star break with knee soreness and back inflammation, the latter of which is especially concerning considering he is coming off having a microdiscectomy this past offseason.
As Vaughn noted, the lack of discussion around shutting him down remains a constant.
“We’re just trying to get to a place where he feels good being back on the court,” he said, per Slater. 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.”
It was not all bad for Simmons.
Still, this leaves Brooklyn and Simmons in an interesting position. He still has two more years and over $78 million remaining on his contract.
Brooklyn is still in the early stages of a transition that could see more than half the roster playing elsewhere by the start of next season. But if they are to even think about getting any value out of Simmons, they need him on the floor to build it back up.
Ben Simmons’ Role Had Already Changed
Even before he suffered the initial injury this time around, Simmons had been relegated to a bench role – and sometimes even less – following the trade deadline. Without Kevin Durant and/or Kyrie Irving to be an offense unto themselves next to him, Simmons has baffled his head coach to some degree.
“It’s going to be some work that we have to do,” said Vaughn about getting more out of Simmons via the team’s official YouTube channel after a loss to the New York Knicks on February 13. “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”
Vaughn has urged Simmons to bring more physicality on a consistent basis before so his mention of that aspect of the two-time All-Defensive selection’s game is noteworthy, especially in light of Sabonis nabbing multiple key rebounds down the stretch of Thursday’s loss.
Brooklyn’s Homestand Off to Rocky Start
The Nets’ four-game homestand did not get off to as good of a start as they had hoped and might not get any easier with the Kings on the second leg of a back-to-back. Up next is the Denver Nuggets on March 19 and then a pair of showdowns with the fourth-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers.
This loss had significant playoff implications as well.
Just 12 games remain in the regular season. That leaves plenty of time for the Nets to fall as far as the eight-seed if things go poorly enough.