Nets guard Ben Simmons looks on against the Miami Heat...

Nets guard Ben Simmons looks on against the Miami Heat in the first half of an NBA game at Barclays Center on Feb. 15. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Is Ben Simmons going to play again this season?

 Nets coach Jacque Vaughn seems to think so. Vaughn said Thursday he is “definitely operating under the belief” that Simmons will be back in the rotation for the Nets before the end of the season.

 Vaughn also shared the encouraging news that Simmons, who hasn’t played since the All-Star break a month ago, has recently advanced to “on-court work” in the rehabilitation of his back and knee.

 “No setbacks. He’s progressing,” Vaughn told reporters before the Nets hosted the Sacramento Kings Thursday. “It’s good to see him back on the court getting some work in.”

 Simmons missed his 12th straight game Thursday because of soreness in his back and left knee.

 Simmons, who had back surgery this past summer, has missed 28 of the Nets’ 70 games this season. When he has been on the floor, he’s looked nothing like the All-Star player he was before last season with the Philadelphia 76ers.

 In 42 games, Simmons is averaging only 6.9 points per game with 6.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists. He’s shooting 56.6</CW>% but is only taking 10 shots per game, and has attempted only two three-pointers, missing both.

 “It’s frustrating,” Simmons said on Feb. 24 of the back injury after revealing that he had fluid drained from his left knee and received a platelet-rich plasma injection before the All-Star break. “It’s an injury I’ve never dealt with before. So, it’s something I’m learning about, that we’re learning about.”

 Vaughn did not detail exactly what Simmons has been doing in his on-court workouts, except to say it was “zero on one.” He also said no date had been pinpointed for his return.

“ No timetable for you,” Vaughn said. “The ultimate goal is that we don’t have a reoccurrence. We get feedback every time he’s on the floor, what the strengthening has done for both the back and the knee to see if we’re in a good place. So we’re just getting feedback from day to day to see how he responds, and there’s been no setbacks, which is good.

“We’re just trying to get to a place where he feels good being back on the court. That’s the ultimate goal is to get him in a place where he’s not having soreness or inflammation and he’s ready to hoop. We want him back to hoop, he wants to be back to hoop, and that is definitely the goal.”

Simmons, despite some of his offensive challenges, has the size and skill set to provide a significant boost to the Nets’ defense if he can return. Vaughn is definitely holding out hope that he will.

“There’s zero discussions about him not playing,” Vaughn said. “We’re expecting him to be back. Waiting for him to be back.

“Watching the Sacramento game [from earlier in the season], it was great to see his physicality versus [Domantas] Sabonis. We’re looking forward to seeing that again for sure.”

Simmons’ physical play may have been the one positive thing to come out of the Nets’ 153-121 loss in Sacramento on Nov. 15. At the time, the team was still adjusting to the recent firing of Steve Nash and the drama surrounding the suspension of Kyrie Irving.

The team that hosted the Kings Thursday night was a dramatically different one, given the trades of Irving and Kevin Durant. Center Nic Claxton was the only Nets player who started in both games.

Notes & quotes: According to several published reports, the Nets are planning to fill their open roster spot by singing 7-2 Moses Brown to a 10-day contract. The spot became available when the team decided not to give Nerlens Noel a second 10-day deal.

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