Nets guard Ben Simmons reacts on the bench in the...

Nets guard Ben Simmons reacts on the bench in the first half of an NBA game against the Timberwolves at Barclays Center on Thursday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The wait for Ben Simmons’ return won’t be much longer for the Nets.

Coach Jacque Vaughn said Thursday that Simmons will practice Saturday on Long Island with the Nets’ G League affiliate. If there are no setbacks, he could rejoin the Nets as soon as next week.

“[Saturday] will be another step forward and get some more lively bodies around him and then see what that looks like next week,” Vaughn said before the Nets’ matchup with the Timberwolves at Barclays Center. “Hopefully, he continues to progress and we see him soon.”

Simmons has only played six games this season due to a nerve impingement in his left lower back. This is Simmons’ second impingement in his back since the start of last season, although this current one is located in a different area.

He was injured during the Nets’ loss to the Bucks on Nov. 6. Before getting hurt, he averaged 6.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 6.7 assists.

The Nets have two home games next week. They host the Jazz on Monday and the Suns on Wednesday. The Suns game — Kevin Durant’s first game in Brooklyn following last season’s trade — will be nationally televised on ABC.

Simmons’ return could help a team that entered Thursday 4-16 in its previous 20 games. At 2-8 in January, they were tied for the second-fewest wins this month

Simmons’ progress improved to where he accompanied the team on their last two road trips, including their trip to Paris. Vaughn said that at shootaround he played in the team’s stay-ready group by scrimmaging with players who aren’t getting regular rotation minutes.

“It’s a positive step and I’m looking forward to when we have our group whole, as any coach wants, the opportunity to coach the entire group,” Vaughn said. “Ben is a big piece of who we are. Big piece of how we started the season, how we played, how we tried to form an identity.”

Simmons declared himself fully healthy at media day in October and showed his impact by grabbing double-digit rebounds in five of six games, including 15 in his last game. He averaged 33.5 minutes in his last five games and his ability to push the tempo helped the Nets average 20.6 fast-break points — second in the NBA — before his injury.

The Nets have averaged only 13 fast-break points since Nov. 7, which is 22nd (out of 30) in the league.

Simmons is owed $37.9 million this season and $40.3 million next season, the final year of his contract. Since the Nets traded for him in February 2022, he’s played only 48 games after he sat out the 2021-22 season.

“It’s probably one of the most frustrating points in my career just because I want to be out there and help my team win and compete,” Simmons said on Dec. 22. “But at the end of the day, it’s one of those things that’s a part of sports. Not every game is promised, injuries happen.

“It’s just focusing on what I can do now and doing what I can to get back on the floor and contribute.”

Vaughn said Sunday that having Simmons on this last road trip helped reintegrate him to different plays and schemes that have changed since he last played 2 1⁄2 months ago. It also was perhaps the best sign that his return was imminent.

“I’m looking forward to him being back on the floor,” Vaughn said. “So hopefully this week continues to go in a positive direction and we see him next week.”

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