Ben Simmons dealing with nerve impingement in back, return in doubt

ByTim Bontemps ESPN logo
Saturday, March 25, 2023

The Brooklyn Nets said Friday night that Ben Simmons has been diagnosed with a nerve impingement in his back, putting the former All-Star forward's potential return to the court 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 soreness, was diagnosed with the nerve issue in his back after a re-evaluation Friday, the team said, which comes after he's missed 15 consecutive games.

Before the Nets faced the Sacramento Kings at Barclays Center in Brooklyn last week, Nets coach Jacque Vaughn insisted there had been "zero" discussions about shutting down Simmons for the season at that point.

"Definitely operating under that belief," Vaughn said, when asked directly if he's expecting Simmons to play again this season. "There's 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 [Kings All-Star Domantas] Sabonis last time, so looking forward to seeing that again, for sure."

The 26-year-old was a 3-time All-Star, a two-time All-Defensive first team selection, a 2020 All-NBA third team pick and the 2018 Rookie of the Year across his four seasons on the court with the Philadelphia 76ers, before he sat out all of last season -- first after requesting a trade away from Philadelphia, and then after dealing with injury issues upon being traded to the Nets in the blockbuster deal that sent James Harden to the 76ers in his place.

And while Simmons has returned to the court this season, his performance has dipped. He's come off the bench nine times across his 42 games and has seen his numbers tumble across the board, as he's posting career-lows in minutes (26.3), points (6.9), rebounds (6.3), assists (6.1) and free throw percentage (43.9).

Simmons has another two years remaining 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 fallen back in the East standings over the past several weeks. Brooklyn has gone 5-10 since the All-Star Break, and now sits in seventh place in the Eastern Conference after dropping their last five games in a row -- including a last-second home loss to the Cleveland Cavalierson Thursday night.