Nets’ Ben Simmons running out of time to return this season

BOSTON — Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Ben Simmons has missed five straight games with a knee injury and now is going to miss more with a bad back.

The Nets had put Simmons’ on a strengthening program for his sore left knee before their Feb. 24 game at Chicago, a 44-point loss. At the time he told reporters that he would be reevaluated in a week. That evaluation didn’t go well as hoped.

“Update on Ben, during his strengthening process, he did experience some back soreness. Now we are in the process of strengthening the knee while also managing the back,” coach Jacque Vaughn said Friday before the Nets’ 115-105 victory over the Celtics. “That’s my kind of week’s timetable update. I’m really day to day on what it looks like going forward because of the addition of back.”

Both body parts have been problems for Simmons, whose status for the rest of the season now must be brought into question, despite the Nets’ claims otherwise.

Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons

The Nets’ only remaining All-Star missed all of last season with a herniated L-4 disk in his back and eventually required a microdiscectomy procedure in May. Simmons did return to play this season, but has dealt with a sore knee and the back that has reared it’s head again — although Vaughn was uncertain if the pain was in the same place.

“I do not know that,” Vaughn said. “I do not know if it’s the same area.”

What is known is that the injuries have — so far — largely robbed Simmons of his former explosion. He is averaging just 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 43.9 shooting from the charity stripe this season, all career-lows.

The 26-year-old had fluid in his left knee drained and a platelet-rich plasma injection before the All-Star break. The hope was that it would ease the discomfort in his knee, but after a couple of practices, the pain flared up again and he was put on this “strengthening program” a week ago.

Friday marked the fifth straight game and the 21st this season Simmons has missed. But Vaughn insisted last month there had been no talk of shutting Simmons down for the rest of the season. He reiterated Friday that there have still been no discussions of shelving him.

“I’ve had no conversation, zero about any shut down,” Vaughn said.

With 19 games left, it may be a moot point.

Long Island Nets coach Ronnie Burrell was named G-League Coach of the Month for February. He’s just the fourth in G-League history to win in consecutive months, and first Net to do it.

“Yeah, it’s great. I talked to him, congratulated him, and looking forward to seeing him. I’m going to see him on Sunday, so hopefully he brings some of that mojo to Barclays [Center],” Vaughn said. “He’s done an incredible job of just having a connection with that group, pushing that group, really developing our guys.

“You can see it with David Duke and Dru [Smith] with us right now, just their progression, how they’re working. So Ron has been really good for our program, so happy for him.”