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OFFICIAL: Jacque Vaughn on Ben Simmons: ‘he’s probably not going to join us for rest of the year’

Ben Simmons status once again is uncertain and it may be a while before things get clarified.

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Cleveland Cavaliers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Ben Simmons is done.

Jacque Vaughn, in updating Simmons condition, told reporters before the Heat game that his point guard won’t play again this season.

“In all honesty he’s probably not going to join us for rest of the year,” Vaughn told reporters. As recently as last week ago, the coach said there had been no talk of shutting Simmons down, Then, on Thursday, the Nets issued a medical update that said Simmons had been diagnosed with nerve impingement in his troubled back that would require him to be out of action while they determined “best long-term course of treatment.” There was no timeframe given, but Vaughn indicated that the process would carry through the regular season which has eight games left and the post-season.

“In all honesty, the realism that he’s probably not going to join us for the rest of the year,” Vaughn said, adding that “certainty will come once he continues to be looked at by specialists.”

Simmons is 10 months removed from back surgery and troubled by knee and back surgery nearly all of this season. The original news was contained in a Nets a medical update on Simmons released shortly after 6:00 p.m. ET on Friday...

This will be the second consecutive season in which Simmons will not play at season’s end. In both cases, health issues were the stated reason. The 26-year-old underwent back surgery in early May of last year.

In November, as Brian Lewis reported, Simmons said he had a nerve injury that would take a year-and-a-half to fully recover from.

“Yeah, it takes time to build, especially with having a nerve injury,” Simmons said then. “It takes 18 months for your nerves to fully heal. People don’t know that. But over time, you know, I get better and better. Just keep pushing.”

The news comes after Jacque Vaughn told reporters earlier in the week that the Nets would evaluate Simmons after the team returned from its road trip. On Thursday, he disclosed that Simmons had been doing light workouts on his own but had yet to practice with either the starters or the second unit, aka the “stay ready” group, the unit that the Nets use to help get injured players back on the court.

“It is not with teammates, and so I’ll say that piece of it,” the head coach said of Simmons workouts. “He hasn’t scripted with our group — first group, second group or anything of that nature.”

Simmons has missed 15 straight games with a combination of left knee and back soreness. Vaughn was asked about the playoffs which begin on April 16 (or five days earlier if Brooklyn is in the play-in.) He was non-committal.

“I don’t even think that far ahead. I don’t even complicate my life that way,” Vaughn said three days ago. “I’m concerned about today’s game and if those questions present themselves I’ll be more than willing to see how he fits with the group and answer them at that time, but I don’t even wanna look that far ahead.”

Prior to the medical update, Vaughn had repeatedly said there was no talk of shutting Simmons down for the season. He hasn’t played since February 15, getting PRP injections before the All-Star break while still attempting a return to the court. He also has had his knee drained. His problems first manifested themselves with knee soreness, not an uncommon side effect of spinal surgery. However, he has not looked like the player who had made three NBA all-star teams, two All-Defensive teams and one All-NBA team while playing for the 76ers. Specifically, he’s lacked explosiveness.

Before undergoing the knife in Los Angeles last May, Simmons had resisted back surgery for two years despite intense episodic pain both in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, aware that back surgery often has severe side effects.

As ProfessorB, our analytics guy notes, Michael Porter Jr, of the Nuggets had three back surgeries before he was able to contribute consistently...

MPJ’s first surgery was in November 2017. He came back four months later and played a grand total of 51 minutes. Then he had a second surgery and didn’t play for 15 months. After that, he played 3,000 minutes before needing a third surgery which kept him out for most of another year. I don’t know whether all of that is good news or bad news, but yes, he’s playing well now. (And Simmons has already played 1100 minutes post-surgery, so in that sense he is about where MPJ was three years after his first surgery.)

He famously held out for the whole season in 2021-22 in hopes of getting traded from Philadelphia where he was reviled by the fan base. When James Harden told Joe Tsai at the trade deadline in February 2022 that he wanted to be traded to Philadelphia, the Nets and 76ers worked out a deal that sent Harden and Paul Millsap to Philly for Simmons along with Seth Curry and Andre Drummond as well as two first round picks, one of which the Nets used last June to acquire Royce O’Neale.

Simmons is owed $78.1 million over the next two years, and trading him under any circumstances was going to be difficult. Now, it is likely to be near impossible ... if indeed that is something the Nets want to do. Simmons recently switched agents, dropping Rich Paul and Klutch Sports, who repped him during his holdout, and is reportedly joining up with Bernie Lee who has a small client list but one that includes Jimmy Butler and Justin Holiday. Lee has a reputation for dealing with difficult situations.

The three-time All-Star played in 42 games this season, averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists.