Ben Simmons from the Brooklyn Nets underwent back surgery in Los Angeles to alleviate pain from a herniated disc. The back injury kept Simmons out of the lineup and delayed his long-awaited debut with the Brooklyn Nets after the Philadelphia 76ers traded him to the Nets for James Harden.
Ben Simmons sits on the bench at Barclay’s Center during a first-round playoff matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics. (Image: John Minchillo/AP)
Fans will now have to wait until next season to see Simmons in a Nets uniform. Kyrie Irving hinted that the Nets expect Simmons to be a part of the team next season after a disappointing 2021-22 season. The Nets secured the #7 seed via the Play-In Tournament, but they were swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics.
The Nets were a popular pick to win the 2022 NBA championship in the preseason and for most of the first half of the season. Despite a boatload of money wagered on the Nets via futures bets, the Nets did not produce a single postseason victory.
Simmons: Philly Fallout
Last year at this time, Simmons told the Philadelphia 76ers that he wanted them to trade him after a huge falling out with the team when the 76ers were knocked out of the playoffs. Simmons caught a ton of guff from fans and became an internet meme for his unwillingness to shoot an open layup for fear of getting fouled and having to shoot free throws. Simmons had an ugly jump shot and always struggled at the charity stripe, but he became haunted by his horrendous free-throw shooting.
Speculation grew in the offseason where the 76ers would send the unhappy player. The Los Angeles Lakers seemed like a potential landing spot because Simmons bought a $17.5 million house in the exclusive Hidden Hills neighborhood.
The 76ers suggested Simmons re-work his shot, but he shrugged off the suggestion, and demanded a trade.
Daryl Morey, the general manager of the 76ers, could not find a trade partner in the offseason because his asking price was too high for Simmons. The Portland Trail Blazers balked at a potential trade for CJ McCollum.
Simmons and the 76ers were not on the same page during the preseason. It seemed like he was going to sit out the regular season before abruptly showing up to practice. There was a lot of tension in the locker room between Simmons and his teammates, especially Joel Embiid. Head coach Doc Rivers did not like that Simmons was dogging it in practice, so the two had a spat and he kicked Simmons out of practice. This led to a suspension. Simmons cited mental health problems, and stepped away from the team. The regular season began and Simmons did not play a single game for the 76ers.
The Big Trade: Simmons for Harden
During the first half of the season, the 76ers could not find a team that wanted to take Simmons off their hands for a hefty price. In the week prior to the trade deadline, rumors swirled that the 76ers and Brooklyn Nets would work out a trade. James Harden had gotten increasingly unhappy with his team, especially with Kyrie Irving, so he requested a trade.
On the morning of the trade deadline, the Nets and 76ers swapped their disgruntled stars. Harden joined the 76ers, and Simmons headed to the Nets.
Initially, the Nets expected Simmons to be ready after the All-Star Break because he was not in game shape after skipping the first half of the season. However, his debut kept getting pushed back because Simmons was not in the proper head space to play either.
The Nets were hopeful Simmons could make his debut in the closing weeks of the regular season after he suffered a setback with a back injury. The Nets were fighting for a spot in the Play-In Tournament and Simmons needed court time if they expected him to contribute in the postseason. However, the final season ended without Simmons making his debut. The Nets said Simmons had a herniated disc, and the injury delayed his debut.
The Play-In Tournament began with Simmons sitting in street clothes on the bench. When the Nets secured the #7 seed, there was speculation that Simmons could finally make his debut sometime during the first-round series against the Boston Celtics. After the Nets fell behind 0-2 against the Celtics, fans wondered if Simmons would ever play. Even when they were down 0-3 and on the verge of a sweep, Simmons could’ve made his debut yet he wasn’t ready.
Simmons: Opts for Surgery
Last week, the Nets announced that Simmons would go under the knife to fix his back injury. That ended speculation that Simmons was afraid to play for the Nets, or he had performance anxiety.
“Brooklyn Nets guard/forward Ben Simmons underwent successful microdiscectomy surgery today at Cedars-Sinai Marina Del Rey Hospital in Los Angeles,” said the Nets in an official statement. “The procedure was performed by Dr. Robert Watkins IV. Following an initial recovery period of approximately three weeks, Simmons will begin a rehabilitation program. He is expected to make a full recovery prior to the start of next season’s training camp.”
Simmons flew to Los Angeles and had surgery on his herniated disc on Thursday. Nets head coach Steve Nash had a similar surgery performed by Dr. Watkins. Brook Lopez from the Milwaukee Bucks underwent the same surgery in December, and he returned to the Bucks in March.
Simmons fired up Instagram to let his followers know that everything was kosher.
“Surgery went well,” Simmons said via Instagram. “Thank you for the well wishes.”
Simmons will spend the offseason recovering from back surgery. The timeline is approximately three weeks of non-activity, but it could take three months before full-contact drills. The Nets expect Simmons to be fully recovered by the time training camp begins at the end of the summer.