Brooklyn Nets star Ben Simmons is out for the remainder of the season due to a back injury, head coach Jacque Vaughn announced Tuesday following the team's practice. "Ben will not be joining us the rest of the year," Vaughn said.
Simmons has not played since Feb. 15 against the Miami Heat in the Nets' last game before the All-Star break. Though he had been dealing with knee soreness as well, his back became the bigger issue. During a recent re-evaluation, imaging revealed that Simmons is dealing with a nerve impingement that will require a long-term rest and rehabilitation program.
This is not the first time that Simmons has dealt with a back injury since arriving in Brooklyn. He did not play for the team last season following the blockbuster trade that brought him to the Nets and sent James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers because of a herniated disc that later required surgery.
He was fully recovered and ready for opening night of this season, though, and there were high hopes for him and the Nets despite the offseason drama involving Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Nothing went to plan. Durant and Irving were both traded after all, and Simmons, who was unable to stay healthy or figure out his role, is now done for the season.
Over 42 games, 33 of which came as a starter, Simmons averaged 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists on 56.6 percent from the field. Aside from an encouraging stretch in November, Simmons' first full season with the Nets was a major disappointment best summed up by a quote Vaughn gave following the Nets' loss to the New York Knicks on Feb. 13. Simmons only played 12 minutes and 41 seconds in that game, which turned out to be his second-last before being shut down for good.
"It's going to be some work that we have to do," Vaughn said. "Because you just take a look at what the lineups could potentially look like. You put another big next to Ben, then you got to figure out what the spacing is around him. Then, if you put another playmaker next to him, then you got to figure out what Ben looks like without the basketball. Then if you go small with Ben, then you have to figure out can you rebound enough with him?
"So the challenges are ahead of us. We'll look them head on. We'll figure it out. We have the personnel to figure it out. Whether it is me mixing and matching throughout different pieces of the game, and allowing him to have a group and run with a group, that part we'll figure out, but you see the challenges that lie ahead."
The problem for the Nets, and Simmons, is those dilemmas will all still be there next season even if he is healthy.