Nets guard Ben Simmons waits next to head coach Jacque...

Nets guard Ben Simmons waits next to head coach Jacque Vaughn in the second half of an NBA game against the Heat at Barclays Center on Feb. 15. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

When will Ben Simmons return to work?

The answer to that question is still to be determined.

During his late-afternoon news conference before the Nets’ game against the Charlotte Hornets at Barclays Center on Sunday, coach Jacques Vaughn said Simmons had an MRI that revealed back inflammation.

Before the Nets’ 115-105 win over the Celtics in Boston on Friday, Vaughn said Simmons, who already was suffering from knee soreness, was experiencing back soreness as well.

“That’s what we’re trying to manage right now,” Vaughn said. “We’ll see what that looks like kind of day-by-day, but that’s what we’re managing along with trying to strengthen that knee.”

Since replacing Steve Nash as coach of the Nets, Vaughn has routinely stressed the importance of Simmons’ versatility. But Simmons has not played since Feb. 15 and injuries have limited the 6-10 guard to 42 games this season. He is averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game.

With 18 games remaining and an almost fully overhauled roster after the blockbuster trades of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, will there come a time when Vaughn and the Nets have to begin believing that Simmons will not return?

Or does the possibility exist that the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year could return to the lineup, be it at the end of the regular season or in the playoffs?

“We want Ben back when he is capable of being back for us,” Vaughn said. “When the back is better and when the knee gets better, then he’ll be with us. We want that to happen as soon as possible, but we also want to take care of him and make sure that those two things are good.

“ . . . We’re going to take care of him and try to get him healthy and we want him back as soon as possible.”

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