Ben Simmons, who didn’t play at all last season, is now out for the third time already this season with a sore left knee.
The questions now for the Nets are: How much time will he miss? How often it will keep happening? And how will they adjust without him — again?
Simmons — who was forced out of the Nets’ win over the Magic with 9:03 left in the first half Monday with the injury — has already been officially ruled out of the game against the visiting Wizards. It will be the sixth game he has missed this season.
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“So he had some left knee soreness, that same knee. Asked to be pulled out of the game,” said coach Jacque Vaughn, who didn’t expect the 26-year-old All-Star to have any further imaging on the knee.
“We’ll check him day by day, see how he responds with a little treatment, see what it looks like.”
The Nets offered no details on whether Simmons had an MRI exam or when he would return. Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul, did not respond to texts or phone messages.
After missing all of last season with both mental health woes and a bad back, Simmons, who was acquired by the Nets on February 10 in the trade that sent James Harden to the 76ers, underwent a microdiscectomy procedure in May to repair a herniated L-4 disk. He has since revealed that he also had nerve damage.
Now, the aftereffects of that injury on his right side, along with the strain of a full-time return to play, are having a predictable impact on his left side.
“More so than anything, the accumulation of games,” Vaughn said, referring to the effect of the NBA grind on Simmons.
“He hasn’t had this amount of accumulation of games over a period of a long time.
“[We] talked to the performance team about that. We were warned about that just as these games start to add up. His cumulative load as that begins to add up, it’s really stretching him sometimes the amount of games we’ve just had with the minutes that he’s played pretty high.”
Unfortunately, the Nets are growing accustomed to playing without Simmons.
The knee issue cost him four straight games from October 31 through November 5, as well as the Nov. 13 loss at the Lakers.
“We’ve just got to play smaller,” Kevin Durant said.
“He’s one of our bigs out there.
“We’ve got to play a little faster, and we’ve all just got to do a good job of gang rebounding and doing the little stuff when he’s not out there. So we have practice with him not being in the lineup, and we were able to figure some stuff out.”
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Simmons’ last absence was both short and ultimately beneficial.
Before sitting out that game at the Lakers, Simmons had averaged 5.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.9 assists — all career-lows — and was a team-worst minus-43. Since his return, however, Simmons had found his best form as a Net.
In seven games prior to Monday, Simmons averaged 13.6 points, and his plus-29 was second on the Nets. His 7.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.6 steals were all team highs. Simmons finished scoreless in 11:24 against the Magic with four boards and three assists.
The Nets can only hope the problem isn’t chronic, and that this latest rest proves as productive as the last one.
“Health is the number one priority, so we want him to be at his best,” Kyrie Irving said.
“I’m glad our medical staff, coaching staff, him himself, we all agreed he’d sit down in the second half to save him for games that matter going into the future … games that we’re going to need him most.
“But when he’s not out there we don’t have our point forward, our point guard, being able to initiate easy opportunities, push the ball in transition; so we’ll definitely miss him in the lineup. Hopefully he comes back [soon], but if he’s dealing with it we just want him to get as healthy as possible and we’ll figure it out.”
This article first appeared on The New York Postand was reproduced with permission.