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Woj: Nets hoping for Ben Simmons return at end of season as he gets epidural to ease back pain

Brooklyn Nets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

There is, as there has been all season, good news and bad news about the Nets.

The good news is that Steve Nash reported that Ben Simmons has been administered an epidural — a steroidal injection to ease pain in his lower back. The bad news is that Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN report that the Nets are now hoping that Simmons can return for “a couple of games” before the play-in tournament which begins April 12. That would mean that the Nets new “Big Three” of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Simmons would have no time on court together prior to the post-season.

In his pregame comments, Nash said the injection was administered while the team was in Orlando.

”Yeah, Ben had an epidural while we were in Orlando - the idea being to try to accelerate his recovery and take some of the irritation down,” said Nash. “So hopefully that’ll help him relieve some of the symptoms and be able to recover quicker and accelerate that process.”

The next step he said, will be watching how Simmons reacts to the epidural before developing further plans. Simmons was acquired in the blockbuster deadline trade on February 10 but has not played yet.

Woj and Shelburne provided details on Simmons back issues that had not been previously disclosed by the Nets.

Brooklyn Nets star Ben Simmons has remained sidelined with an irritation of the L-4 disc of the lower spine, but there’s hope he can return for a “couple” of regular games prior to the Eastern Conference playoffs, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.

There had been an original target for a return on Friday vs. the Portland Trail Blazers, sources said, but that became impossible in recent weeks based on Simmons’ inability to go more than a consecutive day or two in rehab without pain flaring up in the lower back and resetting his timeline, sources said.

Irritation of the L-4 disc in the lower back is a common cause of severe — and chronic — back pain.

As Brian Lewis pointed out on Tuesday — and Bobby Marks tweeted Wednesday — Simmons has a history of back issues. Here’s how Lewis described the previous incidents.

Simmons had missed eight straight games and was getting daily treatment for nerve issues in his lower back when the 2019-20 campaign was halted by COVID-19. The next season, he suffered nerve impingement in his lower back, vomiting from the pain according to then-76ers coach Brett Brown.

There was another flare-up this season in Philadelphia and now another during his ramp-up with the Nets. But his new team has been customarily tight-lipped, leaving him off their last flights to spare his back but offering no timeline.

The combination of Simmons back issues and Irving’s ineligibility means that even if Simmons is able to return for the final two games of the season — April 8 vs. Cleveland and April 10 vs. Indiana — he won’t be able to team with Irving. The last game that Irving is currently eligible to play is April 2 vs. the Hawks in Atlanta.

Asked if the Nets are considering surgery for Simmons, Nash said it hasn’t been discussed yet.

”I don’t think anyone’s even talked about a procedure. So that would be a way down the line scenario. We expect him back at some point,” said Nash. “I’m not the doc, so I’m gonna be very careful what I say about the epidural, but I think it’s about fact-finding. I don’t think they’re in the dark about what’s hurting him, I think he’s just better finding the things that will respond best to.”

After the loss to the Mavericks Wednesday, Durant spoke about his hopes for Simmons.

“Can’t wait to get him back, but we don’t want to rush him. Hopefully he gets back soon and be able to play the game he loves every day. I know he misses it,” said KD.