While all the fuss surrounding the Brooklyn Nets has been about Kevin Durant and the MCL sprain he suffered on January 8, quietly, Brooklyn has had another All-Star disappear from the lineup. That would be forward Ben Simmons, who has not played since January 26 after suffering a knee injury in their loss to the Detroit Pistons. TJ Warren has also been out with a shin contusion.
Before the Nets faced off against the Boston Celtics on February 1, Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn gave insight on when we could see Simmons and Warren return to the lineup.
“They just weren’t ready yet, so the best thing was to leave them at home. They can get more treatment and then remain hopeful for Saturday vs. Washington. So that’s still part of the plan hopefully,” Vaughn said to reporters on February 1 via Erik Slater of ClutchPoints.
“They’re definitely progressing towards the right direction of getting back on the floor. We just weren’t there yet to put them back out there.”
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Ben Simmons Has Struggled To Stay on the Floor
For Simmons, the journey to return to the court has seemed like a never-ending one. A controversial ending to his 2021 playoff run led to him sitting out the first half of last season after citing it caused him mental health issues. When Simmons was traded to the Nets for James Harden last February, he still could not immediately play because he was not in game shape after such a long layoff.
Shortly after being traded to the Nets, it was revealed Simmons was dealing with a back injury, however, he still expected to play last season. But ultimately, Simmons didn’t make his Nets debut last season after an MRI showed he had a herniated disc in his back that required off-season surgery.
The injury bug still hasn’t escaped Simmons this season, as he has already missed 14 games. After missing so much time over the last two years, Vaughn says his goal is not just to get Simmons back on the court but to do everything in his power to keep him there.
“I think our conversations [with Simmons] will be real and what can we handle from a management and load perspective, cumulative loads across the board over the course of games,” Vaughn told reporters on January 30.
“So, all those questions will be on the table in order for us to keep our group healthy and whole as we trend toward the end of the year.”
Proposed Trade Helps Nets Fill Frontcourt Void
As the NBA trade deadline approaches, most fans expect Nets general manager Sean Marks to make a big splash. Where the Nets lack the most with this current roster is in the frontcourt. The emergence of their starting center Nic Claxton (who looks like a legit Defensive Player of the Year candidate), is great. However, they don’t have a solid backup center.
In this latest trade proposal from Bleacher Report, Dan Favale suggests that Brooklyn make a deal with the Spurs to acquire Zach Collins and Josh Richardson.
“Collins is, somewhat quietly, churning out a career year. He’s hitting 58.3 percent of his twos and 36.7 percent of his triples while holding opponents to 50.5 percent shooting at the rim—the league’s fourth-best mark among 152 players who have contested at least 100 point-blank opportunities. Getting him and his $7.7 million salary (non-guaranteed) is a friggin’ steal. He pairs perfectly with either Ben Simmons or Nicolas Claxton up front and can absorb plenty of long-big reps,” Favale writes.
“Richardson was on a heater before a knee injury forced him to the sidelines for a couple of games. His offense remains plug-and-play, and he will noticeably lighten the defensive workloads of Royce O’Neale and healthy Kevin Durant.”
It will be interesting to see how the Nets round out their roster as they prepare for the postseason.