Nets 'operating under belief' that Simmons will play this season

ByTim Bontemps ESPN logo
Friday, March 17, 2023

NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said there have been "zero" discussions about shutting down Ben Simmons for the rest of the season.

"Definitely operating under that belief," Vaughn said Thursday 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."

Vaughn, speaking before the Nets' game at Barclays Center against the Kings, was generally vague about what Simmons has actually done, declining to say more than that he has progressed to on-court work. He also didn't offer any timetable Simmons is working under for a return to the court.

"No setbacks," Vaughn said. "He's progressing. So, great to see him.

"He's doing some work on court right now, so as more updates come, I'll definitely give them to you guys, but good to see him back on court getting some work in."

Simmons has been out of the lineup since Feb. 15, Brooklyn's final game before the All-Star break, as he has been dealing with both back and knee issues. Vaughn said Simmons has continued to strengthen both his back and knee, and reiterated that there haven't been any setbacks with either.

Simmons did not play last season after coming to Brooklyn in the deadline-day blockbuster that sent James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers. He has played in a total of 42 games (33 starts) and is averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.3 steals per -- all per-game career lows.

Simmons, who turns 27 in July, was a three-time All-Star, two-time All-Defensive team selection and the 2018 Rookie of the Year in his first four seasons with the 76ers. But he sat out the first half of last season while waiting to be traded, and the second half after being dealt to Brooklyn with a back issue.

The Nets entered Thursday in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, a game behind the crosstown rival New York Knicks in fifth and two games ahead of the Miami Heat in seventh.