Ben Simmons had a previously undisclosed MRI on his ailing back "weeks ago," which revealed a strain or something akin to it, Steve Nash said before the Nets took on the Trail Blazers Friday, adding that Simmons still hasn’t progressed to any individual workouts.
The news cast more uncertainty on when or if Simmons will join the team, especially because he hasn’t once practiced with the Nets after coming to the team in February as the key part of the James Harden trade. Simmons received an epidural in Orlando this week, but Nash had no update on how the All-Star swingman reacted to the treatment.
Previously, the Nets described the injury as a "tightness" or "soreness" as part of a flareup that occurred while he was reconditioning. Simmons originally sat out after the trade because he hadn’t played a game since last June’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
"I believe he has but I think that’s old news," Nash said of Simmons’ MRI. "I’m not sure that it’s - that was a couple weeks ago."
Asked if the imaging was clean, Nash responded: "What does clean mean? I think he’s got a back – something with his back." When pressed if the MRI revealed a strain or something similar, Nash responded in the affirmative.
It’s unclear when exactly Simmons came down with the injury, only that he’s never been able to progress to high-intensity workouts this season. Asked if he was already injured when he first came to the Nets, Nash said he didn’t recall.
"I can’t remember in what state he was" physically, he said. "What was that, a month ago? I can’t remember if he was having issues or if it flared up or but yeah, he hasn’t practiced yet for us."
Either way, Simmons’ injury has proven stubborn; he was able to do individual workouts when he first came to Brooklyn, but even that is off the table now. The Nets, who tend to be especially close-lipped about injured players, have never given a timetable for his return, though they did say in the past that they were hopeful Simmons would play in the regular season.
"That’s the next step," Nash said of individual workouts. "That’s a step he hasn’t gone back to yet, his individual workouts." He said he didn’t know what other benchmarks Simmons had to clear, adding: "That’s really a question for the medical staff. I don’t know the ins and outs of his back injury. I couldn’t speak on it with a great level of education and security right now."
Simmons' playmaking ability, ballhandling and defense would be a definite boost to the Nets as they make their playoff push, though the team has shown an ability to adapt to injuries and uncertainty. They’re still without Kyrie Irving at home, (barely) survived Kevin Durant’s protracted absence with an MCL sprain, and don’t have Joe Harris, who’s been out all season after getting ankle surgery.
"I think we just focus on who’s available right now," Nash said. "Whenever Ben’s available, we’ll be very excited and we’ll get to work on trying to find cohesion but right now we’ve just got to focus on the games in front of us and who is available and trying to manage the current squad. It’s an important part of the season for us, still trying to stay in a decent place seeding wise but also get better and put ourselves in a better position with hopefully some more health to play at a high level. We’ve talked about it before — our runway is short here, so we’ve got to take advantage of those days."