April 14, 2024

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Ben Simmons deals with impinged nerve in back, return in doubt

Ben Simmons deals with impinged nerve in back, return in doubt

Tim BontempsESPN2 minutes to read

The Brooklyn Nets announced Friday evening that Ben Simmons had been diagnosed with neuropathy in his back, which puts the possibility of the former All-Star forward returning to the field this season in doubt.

Simmons, who hasn’t played since Brooklyn’s final game before the All-Star break last month with a combination of left knee and back pain, was diagnosed with a nerve problem in his back after a re-evaluation Friday, the team said. It comes after he missed 15 consecutive games.

Before the Nets faced the Sacramento Kings at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn last week, Nets coach Jack Vaughn insisted there had been “zero” discussions about Simmons closing the season at that point.

“Definitely operating on that belief,” Vaughn said in response to a direct question if he expected Simmons to play again this season. “There are no discussions about him not playing. We expect him to come back, waiting for him to come back, watching the last game in Sacramento, it was great to see him and his physicality vs. [Kings All-Star Domantas] Sabonis last time, so I definitely look forward to seeing that again.”

The 26-year-old was a 3-time All-Star, 2-time All-Defensive, 2020 Third Team All-NBA selection, and 2018 Rookie of the Year across his four seasons on the court with the Philadelphia 76ers, before sitting out the season. The entire past – first after requesting a trade away from Philadelphia, then after dealing with injury issues when traded to the Nets in the huge deal that sent James Harden to the 76ers in his stead.

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And while Simmons has returned to the court this season, his performance has waned. He’s come off the bench nine times in 42 games—something he hadn’t done before his first NBA career—and has seen his numbers stumble across the board, scoring career-lows in minutes (26.3), points (26.3), among others. 6.9), rebounds (6.3), assists (6.1) and free throw percentage (43.9).

Simmons has two more years left on his contract, paying him $37.8 million in 2023-24 and $40.3 million in 2024-25.

Since trading away Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the days leading up to the deadline, the Nets have slipped in the Eastern standings over the past several weeks. Brooklyn has gone 5-10 since the All-Star break, and is now seventh in the Eastern Conference after the Nets have lost their last five straight games — including a heartbreaking last-second loss at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers Thursday night.