There’s a “stat” that may seem unbelievable to those who aren’t Nets fans, but it’s as unsurprising as the sun’s daily rise to us: Since the Clean Sweep Summer, Brooklyn has not produced a clean injury report.
Kevin Durant and his achilles recovery had it covered that first season, while Spencer Dinwiddie’s early injury had us covered in 2020-’21. But over the past season and change, the Nets still haven’t been able to present a clean bill of health.
We are closer now, though, than we ever were. Ben Simmons, Yuta Watanabe, and Edmond Sumner are all currently on the shelf, but following Brooklyn’s practice Tuesday, we learned some concrete information about all three of their cases. There is some cause for guarded optimism as we head into the final two games (Wednesday vs. Charlotte, and Friday vs. Atlanta) of Brooklyn’s 7-game homestead.
Simmons has missed the last three games after re-injuring a sore left knee on November 28th vs. the Orlando Magic. He played just 11 minutes in that contest, the second of a back-to-back, before, as Jacque Vaughn stated after the game, asking out due to discomfort in his left knee.
According to Simmons, the discomfort did not come out of the blue, referencing the first half of that back-to-back vs. Portland in his timeline of events:
“I felt it get tight on me in that [Portland] game and then coming into that next game, I started feeling it a little earlier. So I let the staff know, they pulled me, I went to the back got some treatment, and they just thought it’d be best to just sit that out.”
Which begs the question, how should Brooklyn manage Simmons when the schedule starts to pile up on them?
Jacque Vaughn recognized that going forward the calculus must change: “Hopefully we get to a point where Ben’s minutes aren’t what they were,” later adding “Early enough in the year, we can get away with it, but it’s not sustainable.”
Simmons agreed that, rather than a specific play causing his injury, his knee soreness which was actually a calf strain was likely a result of an accumulation of minutes that his body is still getting re-adjusted to:
“I think it’s...not playing for a while, coming back, the amount of minutes I was playing, also playing back-to-backs.” Regarding his playing time going forward, Simmons said “I think we’re definitely going to look at it a lot different, I don’t know if it’s measuring minutes, maybe not back-to-backs or whatever it is.”
So, when will we see Simmons on the court again?
“I’m looking for Friday to get back on the court.” Straight from the horse’s mouth. His head coach, however was less committal, only offering that Simmons’ return was “trending towards this weekend.”
Now, that could mean a Saturday return on the second half of a back-to-back in Indiana, but the verdict is in. Look for Simmons to be upgraded to, at least, questionable on Friday’s injury report, and don’t count on him to appear in both sides of a back-to-back for some time.
Spoiler alert, Yuta Watanabe, recovering from a hamstring strain, is on a similar timeline as his Australian teammate. “My hamstring is feeling good, hopefully I can play this weekend,” said the NBA leader in 3-point percentage who’s missed eight straight. Watanabe, though, unlike Simmons, doesn’t seem to be targeting a specific game in the weekend cross-city back-to-back Brooklyn is about to embark on: “I want to play those two games, but we’ll see how I feel...”
Vaughn echoed that sentiment, expressing relief that Watanabe has experienced “no setbacks” in his hamstring recovery, and played some half-court basketball at Nets practice on Tuesday. He added, “Hopefully we’ll get him in one of those games this weekend, also.”
There’s no doubt that Brooklyn, who ran a seven-man rotation (and a tight one at that) vs. Boston on Sunday misses the lefty from Yokohama. Not only has he seemingly knocked down every corner three he’s taken this year, but Watanabe has taken on defensive assignments from Damian Lillard to Myles Turner this season, and handled himself well. Against a Boston team whose shortest starter was 6’4”, his size and versatility were sorely missed. The only two bench players to see real minutes for Brooklyn? Seth Curry and Cam Thomas.
Wednesday’s game vs. Charlotte will mark Watanabe’s ninth consecutive game-missed. But there is hope that the buck stops there, and the hidden gem of Brooklyn’s offseason additions will return by Friday.
Don’t forget about Edmond Sumner, people! Brooklyn surely could have used the wiry guard against Boston. He brings an athleticism and hunger to push the pace that Cam Thomas and Seth Curry, unfortunately, just couldn’t replicate.
Fortunately, his absence may just be one game. Sumner didn’t speak to the media following Tuesday’s practice, but Vaughn provided a concrete update:
“I talked to [Sumner] this morning. He definitely felt better than the other day. But he is not technically in for Wednesday. It’s more of ‘Let’s see how he feels today and tomorrow morning.’”
Brooklyn’s official injury report said as much, with Sumner receiving a “questionable” designation for Wednesday’s game against the Hornets.
Tantalizingly close, we are, to a blank slate on the injury report. But we’re not there yet. In any case, it’s certainly positive to hear the three of Brooklyn’s best defenders may all return by the end of the week, the end of the Nets’ seven-game home-stand. Only Charlotte and Atlanta stand between Brooklyn and a 6-1 record. And they may have some reinforcements coming.
- Yuta Watanabe nearing return from injury after unexpected Nets impact - Mark W. Sanchez - New York Post
- Ben Simmons looks to lighten workload as Nets return looms - Mark W. Sanchez - New York Post
- Nets’ Ben Simmons to miss 4th straight, hopes to return Fri. - Nick Friedell - ESPN
- Nets Notebook: Yuta Watanabe close to return after hamstring injury - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Nets’ Ben Simmons out for Wednesday but aims to play Friday - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- Nets’ Ben Simmons plans to return Friday. How will Brooklyn handle long-term concerns? - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic