Nets' Ben Simmons (lower back) could return Monday vs. Jazz, per report

Ben Simmons of the Brooklyn Nets could be back on the court on Monday against the Utah Jazz, according to ESPN. The plan is for Simmons, who has appeared in only six regular-season games this season because of a nerve impingement in his lower back, to practice with the Long Island Nets, Brooklyn’s G League affiliate, before returning to the lineup, as coach Jacque Vaughn told reporters on Tuesday.

“At some point, I think we’ll use Long Island, hopefully, to get a practice underneath him or get some more bodies around him, hopefully that’s in the near future,” Vaughn said before the Nets’ 108-103 loss against the New York Knicks. “But no setbacks, and he did work out today.”

Simmons’ last appearance came on Nov. 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. He will return to a team that has been in free fall — Brooklyn has lost 16 of its last 20 games and is currently 17-26 on the season, 11th in the Eastern Conference.

The major questions regarding Simmons are the same as they were at the beginning of the season: Can the former All-Star stay healthy for an extended stretch? Will he aggressively attack the basket? How will he fit next to Nic Claxton? The context, though, is completely different. The trade deadline is approaching, the Nets are underachieving and their style of play has not resembled the defense-first, transition-heavy one that Vaughn was talking about in training camp.

Part of the problem has been that they’ve missed the pace, playmaking and physicality that Simmons can provide. He’s a tricky piece to integrate, though, and the vibes have been off for a while.

Since arriving in Brooklyn in 2022, Simmons has averaged 6.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game, though his sample size is limited to just 48 games overall (39 starts).

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