Brooklyn Nets point guard Ben Simmons will hope to finally get on the court in the 2022-23 season after undergoing successful back surgery on Thursday.

The 2020-21 Defensive Player of the Year runner-up failed to play a single minute in the 2021-22 campaign.

He joined the Nets from the Philadelphia 76ers in February as part of a multi-player trade and was soon sidelined with a herniated disc.

The Nets have now confirmed both a successful surgery and a timeline for his return.

"Brooklyn Nets guard/forward Ben Simmons underwent successful microdiscectomy surgery today at Cedars-Sinai Marina Del Rey Hospital in Los Angeles," read a team statement.

"Following an initial recovery period of three weeks, Simmons will begin a rehabilitation programme. He is expected to make a full recovery prior to the start of next season's training camp."

The Nets suffered a frustrating 2021-22 campaign, and were recently swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics, who have emerged as strong contenders to be champions of the Eastern Conference.

Ben Simmons will have surgery to help treat the pain caused by a herniated disc, with the Brooklyn Nets expecting his recovery to take at least three months.

Simmons, the 2020-21 Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, did not play a game in the 2021-22 season, encountering more back pain as he tried to ramp up to a return in the playoffs.

A statement released by the Nets highlighted that the surgery he will receive is called a microdiscectomy. 

It was a disappointing season for the Nets, who began the year as the favourites to win the Eastern Conference, but struggled throughout as Kyrie Irving was absent for the first portion of the season, and James Harden was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package around Simmons.

In the playoffs, the Nets were swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics, who are now the Eastern Conference favourites.

While Kyrie Irving highlighted in his last post-game press conference of the playoffs that there will be plenty of roster turnover as he and Kevin Durant "co-manage" the offseason along with the front office, he indicated Simmons was seen as a core building block.

The Brooklyn Nets are listing Ben Simmons as out for Game 4 against the Boston Celtics.

Simmons has yet to play a game this season, with a back injury keeping him on the sideline since being traded to Brooklyn at the deadline.

Indications had been that the three-time All-Star was trending towards his Nets debut in Game 4 of the series, but the inevitability of the outcome may be leading to some extra caution.

The Nets trail the series 3-0, a deficit no NBA team has come back from in the seven-game series format.

Ben Simmons is making progress towards a return in the NBA playoffs after being cleared for contact says to Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash.

Simmons, who was traded to the Nets from the Philadelphia 76ers in February, has not played in the NBA all season after a fallout at his former franchise.

The 25-year-old three-time All-Star had struggled initially with him reconditioning after joining the Nets, before being plagued by a back problem which he is slowly overcoming.

"He's making progress," Nash told reporters after Tuesday's practice. "We'll just see how he responds and see if he's able to do more contact [on Wednesday]."

Simmons had joined in a 4-on-4 with teammates at a Monday workout with contact.

"So far, so good," Nash said. "I think he managed yesterday's activity well."

The Nets are currently 1-0 down in their seven-game first round playoffs series against the Boston Celtics.

Nash confirmed Simmons would not play in Game 2 on Wednesday but there is growing hope he will participate in the series in some capacity.

"I wouldn't be able to say anything about that because I'm not even sure how he's going to get through these weeks," Nash said.

"We have to also consider it's a nine-month absence or whatever it is, so it's not just like he had a six-week absence, so I think this is a pretty unique scenario. It's not as linear as maybe the other kind of in-season injuries."

It is looking increasingly likely that Ben Simmons will play for the Brooklyn Nets this season after reports that he is targeting a return during his side's first-round series against the Boston Celtics.

Shams Charania from The Athletic – who is also represented by Simmons' agency, Klutch Sports Group – said the Nets are hoping the return comes around April 25-29, which coincides with Game 4, Game 5 and Game 6 of the series.

Simmons is yet to play at all this season after sitting out of the early portion of the season with the Philadelphia 76ers due to mental health reasons, and has been sidelined with a back injury since arriving with the Nets via trade.

While everything is trending positively for Simmons' Nets debut to come in this year's playoffs, superstar teammate Kevin Durant said he would believe it when he sees it.

"I'm not expecting him to play," he said after practice on Thursday. 

"That's easier for me. I'm not putting any pressure on Ben to come out there and hoop. 

"So I'm not expecting him to do anything but just to get his body right and get healthy as fast as he can – in my mind, I'm preparing as if we're playing with the team we have."

Head coach Steve Nash was non-committal when asked about Simmons' chances.

"It's up to Ben's back," he said. 

"It's not up to me, any of us, other than his back… there's a chance Ben comes back, there's a chance he doesn't come back. 

"So I think for us, we got to focus on the group; support Ben and his journey to get back on the floor, but at the same time we don't have time to lose focus on the group that's playing.

"Ben's a franchise cornerstone – but right now it's about supporting him physically and mentally to get back on the floor, and coaching the group to put its best foot forward in the first few games of the series at least. 

"Internally, we're not sitting here saying 'Ben's returning in this series' – we'll see what happens."

So here it is. That time of year again where we separate the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, the champions from the... rest.

The NBA playoffs get underway on Saturday with plenty of stories to be written and legacies to be cemented.

Can the Phoenix Suns turn their dominance in the regular season into a championship? Will the Milwaukee Bucks be able to retain their crown? Could someone from the play-in tournament sneak in the back door and go all the way?

These questions and plenty more will keep us glued to our screens as we watch the action unfold over the next two months.

But what of the individual stories? There are plenty of players who have made names for themselves in the business end of the season down the years, with lots of big names who will particularly want to make an impression this time around as well.

Stats Perform has selected five such players to focus on, explaining why they may just have a bit more to prove over the next few weeks than others.

James Harden – Philadelphia 76ers

It may feel slightly like shooting fish in a barrel to start with a player who is known for not being able to get over the line in the postseason, but we are not above easy wins here.

Harden has been to the NBA Finals just once in 12 postseason appearances, and that came 10 years ago with Oklahoma City Thunder.

Strictly speaking, his playoff averages have been impressive. While with the Houston Rockets, he averaged at least 26.3 points per game (PPG) in the playoffs, including an impressive 31.6 in the 2018-19 season.

However, it has more been one-off performances, invariably at crucial moments, that have let him down. This was summarised perfectly last year in Game 7 for the Brooklyn Nets against the Bucks, when he sank only five of 17 field goal attempts.

Now at the Sixers after a huge trade earlier in the season, and with the league's top scorer Joel Embiid on his side, Harden will surely be determined to silence his doubters and reach the second NBA Finals of his career. 

Chris Paul – Phoenix Suns

This is likely the best chance the Suns will ever have to win an NBA championship, and ditto Paul.

An incredible regular season record of 64-18 saw them finish atop the Western Conference with a win percentage of 78.0, almost 10 per cent more than the second-place Memphis Grizzlies (68.3 per cent).

For Paul, this, therefore, is almost certainly his strongest chance to finally win a championship ring, especially having come so close last year.

The 12-time All-Star has the most assists per game in the league this season (10.8), and only Trae Young (737) has more overall assists than his 702, though the Atlanta Hawks star has played 11 more games.

At 36 years of age, Paul will not have many more opportunities, and will want to make this one count.

 

Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks

It has been another memorable season for the young Slovenian, averaging 28.4 PPG as well as 8.7 assists and 9.1 rebounds.

In his two previous playoff campaigns, Doncic has stepped his game up even more, averaging 31.0 PPG in 2019-20 and a remarkable 35.7 PPG last year. However, on both occasions, the Mavericks still could not make it past the first round.

Dallas ended the regular season with a record of 52-30, winning seven of their last eight games, and will go up against the Utah Jazz in the first round, a team they have beaten twice in the last six weeks.

It is not so much that Doncic himself has a point to prove, but he will be looking for more help from his team-mates as he looks to get to the latter stages, where a player of his talent surely belongs.

Tyler Herro – Miami Heat

Another young player who has already put in some strong postseason showings in his short career so far.

Herro impressed in the 2020 playoffs, but last year the Heat were whitewashed by the Bucks in the first round. As the number one seeds in the East this year, all eyes will be on them to do much better.

While Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo will of course be important, Herro could well be the difference-maker.

The 22-year-old point guard has comfortably produced his best regular season so far, averaging 20.7 PPG, as well as 4.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds.

Many expect it to be Miami v Phoenix in a battle of two number one seeds in the Finals this year, in which case Herro will be looking to repeat his second-best scoring performance of the season when he came away with 33 points in the Footprint Center in January's 123-100 win against the Suns.

Ben Simmons – Brooklyn Nets

It has been a nervous wait for Simmons, not just to return to fitness, but to see if he would even have the chance to turn out for the Nets this season.

While it has not been suggested the 25-year-old will return from back problems imminently, it has been reported the Nets are looking to use the player they traded Harden for in February sparingly towards the end of the first round.

Thankfully for him, his team-mates made it through their play-in game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday and so take their place in the playoffs, where they will start off in a fascinating encounter against the Boston Celtics.

Simmons has not played a single minute of basketball this season, not since his notorious performances in last year's postseason with the Sixers that saw him draw the ire of Joel Embiid and coach Doc Rivers.

Although Embiid accused Simmons of wanting to be a star more than wanting to win, that he won't necessarily need to fire from the off could help him, with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in excellent form for Brooklyn.

Simmons will want to discover the sort of form he showed in the 2018-19 campaign, when he averaged 16.9 PPG, as well as 7.7 assists and 8.8 rebounds.

Steve Nash called the potential inclusion of Ben Simmons in the playoffs "another challenge" that he and the Brooklyn Nets would welcome.

Simmons, a three-time All-Star, is yet to play a game this season after his relationship with the Philadelphia 76ers broke down and he opted to sit out for mental health reasons until his trade could be organized.

The 2021 Defensive Player of the Year runner-up has also been dealing with a back injury since arriving in Brooklyn, which has kept him out of action since the All-Star break.

A recent report indicated it was unlikely that Simmons would play at all in the playoffs, but with an updated and upgraded prognosis, the Nets believe his return this year is not out of the question.

When asked about possibly integrating Simmons into the playoff rotation, Nash called it a good problem to have.

"Another challenge, but one that we'd welcome, clearly," Nash said of the 25-year-old.

"So, we'll see – if he's able to play at some point it would be great to incorporate him, and to try and learn as we go and see how he can help our team without having much history, or any history, with our group.

"The bottom line is we'd be adding a substantial talent to our team, so we really welcome him.

"He fits and he helps in a number of ways. We're in need of help, so we would welcome that challenge of trying to incorporate him in a playoff situation where he has no history with our team."

However, long-time teammate Seth Curry, who came over with Simmons in the trade that brought James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers, was not willing to look ahead to a potential return for the big Aussie.

"We're worried about the Play-In game right now," Curry said. 

"If Ben comes in, we'll try and integrate him as much as possible, but we feel like we're locked into this Play-In situation right now.

"If Ben does become available, we'll deal with that then, but we have to worry about who we have out there and focus on Cleveland. 

"I don't think anybody's going to be thinking about if Ben can come back, as a team. Maybe the coaches and front office – but as players, we're locked into the task at hand."

Ben Simmons will not feature for the rest of the regular season or the upcoming Play-In tournament, according to Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash.

Simmons is yet to debut for the Nets following his February trade from the Philadelphia 76ers, following his bitter and prolonged stand-off with the team that drafted him. The Australian guard has subsequently not played all season.

The former All-Star had an epidural last month to alleviate pressure in his back as he struggles to build his conditioning up to a level fit enough to see him return to action.

Simmons has started participating in limited practice, but Nash confirmed on Monday that the 25-year-old will not return before the end of the regular season, or for the Play-In, which takes place between April 12-15.

The Nets are on course to require two wins in the Play-In tournament to qualify for the playoffs, sitting in 10th place in the Eastern Conference after three defeats in their last four games, with an overall regular-season record of 40-38.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash remains optimistic that Ben Simmons will play at some point this season but has revealed the new signing has a herniated disk in his back.

Simmons is yet to debut for the Nets following his February trade from the Philadelphia 76ers, whom he fell out with over the off-season. The Australian guard has subsequently not played all season.

The former All-Star had an epidural last week to alleviate pressure in his back as he struggles to build his conditioning up to a level fit enough to see him return to action.

The Nets, who appear headed for the Play-In Tournament with a 37-34 record sitting eighth in the east, have only 11 regular-season games remaining, meaning the clock is ticking on Simmons.

"He's had this [herniated disks] a couple years ago, so he's had them throughout his career at some points," Nash told reporters prior to Sunday's game against the Utah Jazz.

"I guess there was a flare-up. I'm not sure when they recognised it was beyond a back flare-up and a herniated disc or what not, but somewhere along the line there, that was the reason for the epidural."

He added: "From what I know, he trained pretty hard for five, six months. He was in a great place. Unfortunately, I think there was a little flare-up at some point in there and it's just never quite turned the corner since.

"I think he had months of five, six days a week on court and was doing very well, so just unfortunate, but we stay the course. Hopefully a good resolution to this in the near future."

Simmons is yet to be cleared to return to practice although Nash said surgery had not yet been discussed.

"We still have high hopes that he can come back," Nash said. "He's had moments during his rehab where he's on the court doing some things and it looks like he's about to turn a corner, and then there's a little setback so I still feel optimistic that he can play for us."

Kevin Durant says he does not need to hold new Brooklyn Nets acquisition Ben Simmons' hand after his latest setback as he bids to return to the NBA.

Simmons, who was traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Nets last month, received an epidural injection this week, further delaying any Brooklyn debut which is several weeks away at a minimum.

The 25-year-old has not played all season after sitting out the first half of the campaign with the 76ers citing mental health reasons after the fallout from their 2021 playoffs exit.

The Nets reportedly have hope he will play prior to the playoffs as he overcomes a back injury.

After Wednesday's 113-111 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Durant was asked how to keep Simmons engaged as he continues on the sidelines for even longer.

"He's a grown man. He's an All-Star. He's a veteran in this league now," Durant said.

"He's gotta keep himself engaged. I ain't ever gonna hold anybody's hand in this league. He knows that.

"He doesn’t want anybody to make sure he's being a professional. I can't wait to get him back but we don’t want to rush him.

"Hopefully he gets back soon. I know he misses it."

The Nets' latest defeat leaves them with a 36-34 record, sitting in eighth in the Eastern Conference.

Durant finished with 23 points, six rebounds and 10 assists and Andre Drummond added 14 points and 17 rebounds for the short-handed Nets.

The Mavs triumphed courtesy of a Spencer Dinwiddie's game-winning three-pointer on the final buzzer.

Dinwiddie finished with 22 points, while Luka Doncic added 37 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

"When you watch that last play, just regret, wondering what the game would have been like if I didn't go jump Luka right there, you know what I'm saying?" Durant said. "So in hindsight I wish I would have made a different decision, but it is what it is."

Brooklyn Nets' new star acquisition Ben Simmons received an epidural injection while he was away from the team during the team's trip to Orlando.

Simmons is yet to play a game this season. He was traded by the Philadelphia 76ers after making himself unavailable due to mental health reasons following the fallout from their 2021 playoffs defeat to the Atlanta Hawks, while a back injury has delayed his Nets debut.

In Wednesday's press conference, coach Steve Nash said the hope was that the injection would assist the healing process.

Nash went on to say that the team will have to wait-and-see how Simmons reacts to the treatment, and that there is no current timetable for his return to practice.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash said he is hopeful of Ben Simmons debuting with his new team before the playoffs, but indicated it is far from a sure thing.

With only 14 games to play before the postseason begins, Simmons still has not been cleared to practice due to a back injury that has only worsened since arriving in Brooklyn.

The Nets have shown they can win without Simmons for the time being – including a dominant performance in Philadelphia against former team-mate James Harden – but to be a serious title contender, the former first overall pick will need to play a significant role.

Currently occupying the eight-seed in the Eastern Conference, Brooklyn have an uphill battle to try to make up the four games they sit behind the six-seed Cleveland Cavaliers to avoid the play-in tournament and secure a guaranteed playoff berth.

While he has not been able to participate in team practices, Nash said the team are trying to get Simmons as involved as possible and build the necessary chemistry, and that he has "extremely high hopes that we'll see him in the regular season".

"The biggest thing we've tried to do is to have him be involved in everything," Nash said. 

"The travelling is the one caveat, where sometimes you're weighing the cost-benefit of him on aeroplanes and buses and different beds. 

"When he's with us, we want him in every meeting, in every walkthrough, in every film session, whatever it may be, so he's around the group. 

"We'd love for him to travel, be with the team all the time, but we have to weigh that scenario as well."

While Simmons is a "perfect fit" for Brooklyn's team construction and style, according to Nash, there is no way to simulate on-court repetitions alongside stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

"I think he has a pretty good understanding [of what the Nets are doing]," the coach said.  "Now, has his focus been on learning what we're doing? No, it's been on getting better. 

"We've had him around, we want him to learn, but there's a lot going on when you're desperately trying to fight to get on the court.

"I don't expect him to be totally dialled in on what we're doing, because part of that is also feel; getting out there with your team-mates, seeing how it fits. 

"I think he'll be a perfect fit for our guys – but some of that stuff is also getting out there and doing it, learning on the fly, rather than reading it off the notes."

The Brooklyn Nets silenced the Philadelphia crowd that came to jeer Ben Simmons on his return to the Wells Fargo Center in a surprise blowout 129-100 win over the 76ers on Thursday.

Kevin Durant top scored with 25 points along with 14 rebounds and seven assists, while Seth Curry – who was also involved in last month's trade which saw Simmons and James Harden swapped sides – added 24 points with five steals.

Kyrie Irving landed five three-pointers for his 22 points along with five assists, while Harden endured a difficult night against his former teammates.

Harden only managed 11 points, shooting three-of-17 from the field, with six rebounds and five assists. Joel Embiid had 27 points with 12 rebounds for the 76ers.

Simmons did not play, sitting on the Nets bench and enduring boos, but his teammates did their best to silence the home crowd by opening up a 21-point half-time lead.

The win boosted the Nets' playoffs hopes, improving their record to 34-33, while the 76ers are third in the east with a 40-25 record.

 

Curry reaches milestone in GSW win

Stephen Curry reached 20,000 career NBA points as the Golden State Warriors reaffirmed their top three status in the west with a 113-102 win over the Denver Nuggets.

The Nuggets, playing their fourth game in five days, led by 14 points in third quarter but fell away, with Nikola Jokic (23 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists) entering foul trouble.

Curry finished with a game-high 34 points including three three-pointers, shooting 11-of-21 from the field, while Jordan Poole drained two clutch triples in the final minute as the Warriors went on a late 13-0 run. 

The win makes it back-to-back victories for Golden State who improve to 45-22 after recent wobbly form, while the Nuggets are 40-27 with their four-game winning run ended. 

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant said he was happy to quiet the raucous Philadelphia crowd after downing the 76ers 129-100 on the road.

It was one of the most highly-anticipated regular season fixtures in some time after James Harden and Ben Simmons sensationally switched teams just weeks ago, with Philadelphia undefeated in five games with Harden in the lineup. 

With the game taking place in Philadelphia, Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving was allowed to play, with his inability to play in home games due to New York’s vaccine mandate reportedly a major factor in Harden’s desire to move on from the situation.

Durant said that the chants, particularly aimed at new Net Ben Simmons who had an acrimonious split with the 76ers, died down after Brooklyn took a 21-point lead into half-time.

"It was good to quiet them all down mid-way through the game," Durant told TNT. "It was very quiet towards the end – we ain’t hear no more Ben Simmons chants from the 76ers fans, there were more Nets fans here than anything."

Later on in the post-game news conference, Durant touched on the poor performance of his former teammate after Harden finished with 11 points, shooting 3-17 from the field.

"He relies a lot on the free throw line," Durant said. "Getting to the rim and getting to the free throw line gets him in rhythm, and we didn’t let him do that.

"He was three-of-17 – he was trying to get to the rim, but we were all there swarming.

"He hit a few open threes – but you know – when he’s getting to the rim, and getting downhill and to the free-throw line, that’s when they’re tough to stop, and we eliminated a lot of that stuff."

He sure is. pic.twitter.com/v4vOEI30UN

— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 11, 2022

While he downplayed the importance of a regular season game in March, Durant said the Nets were aware of the hostility that would meet Simmons, and that he was determined to make it a night to remember for his new teammate.

"I think all of us were [trying to quiet the crowd] – we look at Ben as our brother," he said.

"We knew this would be a hostile environment, and that he didn’t have the opportunity to play, so we wanted to come out there and get [the crowd] focused on the court, more-so than [Simmons].

"They were focused on the court tonight – it’s hard to chant at Ben Simmons when you’re losing by so much."

It is a return that calls for popcorn when the Brooklyn Nets head to the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

A month after leaving the Nets for the Sixers, James Harden will have the opportunity to face his former team and show them what might have been.

The 32-year-old's time in Brooklyn was underwhelming to say the least, but he has taken to life in Philadelphia like a duck to water, with the Sixers winning all five games in which he has featured so far.

His partnership with Joel Embiid in particular has thrived, with the Cameroonian putting up 43 points and Harden making 14 assists in Monday's win against the Chicago Bulls.

Harden insists he is calm ahead of meeting his former teammates, saying: "I'm not nervous. It's basketball.

"I put the work in to go out there and just play my game and live with the results. Honestly, every game is a big game for us. We're fairly new. We got championship aspirations so every game is a learning process for us no matter who we’re playing."

Meanwhile, another highly anticipated return won't quite be the same as Ben Simmons remains sidelined for the Nets but will reportedly be in attendance at Wells Fargo Center.

Another less discussed story will be Seth Curry, who has made an excellent start to life in Brooklyn since being a part of the trade that saw Harden and Simmons swap cities.

In 10 outings for the Nets, Curry has maintained his average of 15 points per game that he managed in 45 appearances with the Sixers this season, though he has gone three without reaching double figures so will want to put that right against his former team.

The Nets have lost four of their six clashes since the All-Star break and sit on an even record of 33-33, while the Sixers have won five of six in that time, and all three home games.

They have met three times already this season, of which Brooklyn have won two, though Philadelphia did come out on top in late December 110-102.

It promises to be a fun night in Philly, and whether it be cheering Harden or booing Simmons, Sixers fans will likely make themselves heard.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Philadelphia 76ers – James Harden

I mean… who else?

It's not just because of the overwhelming amount of narrative involved. Harden has been a success story so far in Philly and will want to put on a show on this night of all nights.

Of course, as the league leader for points per game (29.7), Embiid will likely be the main man as usual, but with an average of 24.6 points per game since joining the Sixers and a big point to prove here, expect Harden to be at the centre of things either way.

Brooklyn Nets – Kyrie Irving

It's not very often that Irving isn't the centre of attention, but with the Harden/Simmons factor here you would think he might get a night away from the spotlight. 

Then again, if his form is anything to go by, maybe not.

Irving hit 50 points in Tuesday's win against the Charlotte Hornets and is averaging 26.2 points per game for the season, albeit while still missing several games due to vaccination rules.

KEY BATTLES – Nets must rely on experience

The cliche is that sport is a young person's game, but Brooklyn will be hoping that isn't true.

The Nets have the fourth-oldest average age of active roster in the league, and the second-highest percentage of points scored by players over 33 years old (40.8 per cent).

The Sixers are not exactly kids themselves but do have the 10th most points scored in the league by players under the age of 23 (15.5 per cent), mostly thanks to impressive 21-year-old Tyrese Maxey, who is averaging 17.6 points per game this season.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

As mentioned, the Nets actually lead this season's head-to-head 2-1, although since the start of the 2016-17 season, the Sixers have won 14 and lost just eight of the 22 meetings between the two.

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