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Lewis: Simmons makes some progress in rehab, hopes to avoid off-season surgery

Brooklyn Nets v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Brian Lewis reports with details Saturday that Ben Simmons rehab has taken another positive step but again his progress may not get him on the court this season. Moreover, there is a possibility of surgery on his herniated disc in the off-season.

Per Lewis...

The good news is that Simmons has seen enough improvement with his back recently to give the Nets and their sidelined All-Star hope that he can at least avoid surgery this offseason.

“It looks like he’s doing a little bit better,” the league source told The Post. “You know, it’s just a timing thing. The problem is the season is running out. But he’s doing [more]. He’s starting to do a little bit more movement, AlterG (an anti-gravity treadmill), stuff like that. So … we’ve got to be patient with it. I don’t think he’ll need a procedure, though. But you’ve just got to be patient with it.”

The AlterG essentially permits Simmons to begin running without placing too much pressure on his body...

While the Alter G device he has been using allows individuals to run at a lower percentage of their body weight and do rehab with less pain, the fact he can run at all bodes well for escaping the need for summer surgery.

“Yeah, the improvement is there,” the source told the Post. “And I think he’ll avoid having to do any type of procedure.”

This seems to be the first time that a source close to the 25-year-old has suggested the possibility of surgery. When Nets officials have been asked about a procedure to relieve pressure on the disc, they’ve said it hasn’t yet been seriously discussed.

On March 21, after Simmons received an epidural, Steve Nash dismissed any conversations about Simmons needing surgery for his herniated disc, stating, “not by me. I don’t think so.”

Simmons has had a history of back injuries throughout his short NBA career. The former Philadelphia 76er was diagnosed with a nerve impingement in his lower back in February of 2020.

Back surgery can be tricky, as players like Dwight Howard and Michael Porter Jr. can attest but of course each surgery is different.

Still, word that Simmons is using the AlterG device is another positive — if incremental — bit of news on his rehab. Following the administration of epidural on March 15, Simmons has been able to fly twice with the team, to Miami on March 26 and Atlanta on April 2 and he has begun light on-court work.

On Saturday night, the Nets posted video of a shootaround that included brief shots of Simmons running and shooting.

Simmons hasn’t even begun to work out 0-on-1. The Nets would require him to run 1-on-1, 3-on-3 and intensive 5-on-5 before they would even consider getting the three-time All-Star back on the court.

Both Nash and Simmons’ people have said they would have no problem dropping him into a playoff game without having played in the regular season. But Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, speaking last week on NBA Today, said the playoff run would have to be a deep one for Simmons to play.

The Nets also understand Simmons is a long-term investment. The team owes him $113 million over three years, starting next season.

Kevin Durant, along with Simmons’ other Nets teammates, has spoken about his positive attitude while rehabbing. Simmons has attended walk-throughs and film sessions and is a fixture on the bench during games.

“He’s doing good,” Nets star Kevin Durant said of Simmons, per Lewis. “He looks good as far as just walking around and being around the team. Haven’t seen him do anything on the basketball court as much, but a couple walkthrough things.

“But I think his spirits are in the right place and he’s excited to be a part of the group and [we’re] looking forward to having him out on the floor. I definitely don’t want him to rush back for us and his back is not right, so take all the time he needs to get his body right. And once he’s out there, we’re ready to rock and roll.”

Simmons seemed to be moving well in his return to play in mid-February when he suffered a setback, apparently later that month. Twelve days after the February 10 trade, Sean Marks spoke glowingly about his return in a sitdown with Nets season ticket-holders. And on February 26, Simmons flew with the Nets to Milwaukee. Then, a week later in talking with Michael Grady of YES, Marks had to admit there had a been a setback which he described as “back stiffness.” Finally, on March 26, Nash admitted the diagnosis was a herniated disc.

As KD noted, the Nets are still hopeful. Durant spoke about just what Simmons could bring to a Brooklyn playoff run.

“Just gives us some more size, someone that can handle the basketball,” Durant said. “It’s always good having someone that can penetrate and touch the paint, That always brings good results when you can do that. Ben is elite at that.

“Obviously, [his] switching out on defense and being able to cover different body types on the floor … is going to help us as well. I just like his overall game. You can’t box him in: He’s a basketball player. I think he’ll just provide what we need; and it may be different every night for him.”

Meanwhile, in a discussion of the Nets prospects, Brian Windhorst said again that there’s virtually no chance Simmons will get back on-court this season.