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Nets’ Simmons shut down for season

Mercurial swingman shelved due to nerve injury in back

March 29, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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For the second straight year, the Nets won’t have Ben Simmons on their postseason roster.

If they reach a first-round playoff series at all.

The slumping Nets announced Tuesday that Simmons, the versatile swingman they acquired in last season’s trade-deadline deal that sent James Harden to Philadelphia, would miss the remainder of the campaign and any postseason games due to a nerve injury in his back.

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“Ben will not be joining us the rest of the year and through the playoffs,” Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn said after Brooklyn practiced at the HSS Training Center in Sunset Park.

“After consulting with our doctors, multiple specialists, he’s just going to begin a rehab program. Our doctors and the specialists feel and think that he’ll have a full recovery so that starts now.”

Considered the biggest chip in the swap that sent Harden to the City of Brotherly Love the February before last, the 6-foot-10 Simmons only played 42 games this season, averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists per contest, due to a series of knee and back issues.

After seeing multiple specialists this week, the Nets confirmed what Vaughn began to intimate Sunday in Orlando, prior to Brooklyn’s loss to the Magic.

Simmons has a nerve impingement, rendering him incapable of returning for the Nets’ final seven regular-season games.

“For me as a coach, there’s some things that I can control, some things that I can’t control,” he noted when asked if Simmons, who had sat out 17 straight games since the All-Star break, would play again this year.

“What I can’t control is the impingement. What I can control is getting this group ready to play. And then in all honesty, the realism that he’s probably not going to join us for the rest of the year … certainty will come once he continues to be looked at by specialists.”

One thing the Nets have to look at is the nearly $80 million Simmons is owed over the next two seasons.

He sat all of last year due to mental-health concerns and a herniated disk, which kept him out of the lineup during the Nets’ stretch run toward the playoffs and during their four-game first-round exit at the hands of eventual Eastern Conference champion Boston.

Now, Brooklyn has to wonder if Simmons will be useful to them at all or valuable as a trade chip going forward, even though Vaughn revealed that the native of Australia is expected to make a full recovery for the 2023-24 season.

Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn will have to navigate the remainder of the regular season and playoffs without Ben Simmons. AP Photo by Seth Wenig

A three-time All-Star and the NBA’s first overall pick in 2016, Simmons’ true impact on the Nets has not yet been felt on the hardwood.

He has struggled to reproduce the form that made him the league’s Rookie of the Year in 2018 and a two-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection ever since he checked out in Philadelphia prior to the beginning of last season.

Vaughn, however, isn’t willing to give up on Simmons being an impactful player for this franchise.

“That’s our goal,” he said. “And overall you just think about, he’s 6-10, athletic, what he can do and bring to our team, how he can help our group on both ends of the floor. We want to be involved in that. We want to see that.

“I want to coach Ben and I want to be able to push Ben to get back to all-defensive team and impact our team on both ends of the floor,” Vaughn added. “So that’s definitely the goal going forward.”

With seventh-place Miami’s loss in Toronto Tuesday night, the Nets (40-35) moved one-half game ahead of the Heat for the coveted sixth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Only the top six seeds in each conference will receive an automatic bid to a first-round, best-of-7 playoff series while the No. 7-10 seeds will compete in a play-in tournament.

The Nets, losers of six of their last seven games, will kick off a four-game homestand at Downtown’s Barclays Center on Wednesday while the Heat (40-36) will be at Madison Square Garden battling the fifth-seeded New York Knicks (43-33).

Brooklynites figure to do plenty of scoreboard watching over the next two weeks.

But the Ben Simmons watch is officially over until next season.

Moses Brown was signed to a 10-day contract by Brooklyn on Tuesday after seeing playing time during Sunday’s loss in Orlando. AP Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez

NOTHING BUT NET: With Simmons done for the year, the Nets also announced Tuesday that they have signed 7-foot-2 center Moses Brown to his second 10-day deal, terms of which were not disclosed as per team policy. Originally inked to a 10-day deal on March 17, Brown has participated in only one contest for Brooklyn thus far, picking up a steal in four minutes of court time in Orlando Sunday. The 23-year-old UCLA alum has career averages of 5.6 points and 5.3 rebounds during his 127-game NBA career, which saw him make previous stops in Portland, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Cleveland and Los Angeles with the Clippers. … After hosting the Rockets on Wednesday, the Nets will welcome Atlanta here on Friday, Utah on Sunday and Minnesota next Tuesday. Brooklyn went 0-4 on its last homestand.

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