Nets Notes: Simmons, Whitehead, Walker, Defense

While Ben Simmons‘ latest injury — a nerve impingement in his lower left back — isn’t believed to be nearly as serious as the multiple herniated disks that required surgery last year, the fact that he’s still having back issues is obviously concerning.

Brian Lewis of The New York Post spoke to Dr. Neel Anand, an orthopedic spine surgeon based in Los Angeles, to get a better understanding of Simmons’ injury. According to Anand, the question to ask isn’t whether or not Simmons will have ongoing back issues — it’s how often he might have flare-ups like the one he seems to be experiencing now.

Again, low back. All that means is this disk is not great. Once you’ve had a disk problem, whether it be a tear, a disk herniation — which is what he had before — that disk is not normal anymore, so it’s not unusual to get another tear or a small thing that flares up again,” Anand told The Post. “The question is, is this new episode another major disk herniation, or just a little flare-up which can be settled down?

It’s like your car tire. You get a tire, you patch the hole and you’re fine and you drive your car. That tire could blow up again, get another tear, or it could run another 10 years. That’s the issue; that tire is not normal anymore. You patched the tire; that’s all you’ve done. And that’s what the surgery we do for micro decompression — which is what he probably had — is. But the actual disk is not the same anymore. So you can get other tears.

What’s important is the MRI didn’t show a large disk herniation pushing on his nerves or something big. … [Reports say] he doesn’t need surgery, so based on that I’m going to assume he does not have a big disk herniation. He’s got a small tear that’s flared up. Anti-inflammatories settle it down 90-95 percent of the time. Now, can it happen again? That’s a $1 million question. The answer’s yes; the question is when? Nobody can predict. [Or] he could play for years. Nobody can predict that.”

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • First-round pick Dariq Whitehead is a former top high school recruit who dealt with a foot injury that required a second surgery prior to the draft. He’s now playing for Brooklyn’s NBA G League affiliate in Long Island as he continues to regain his conditioning. Speaking to Jordan Greene of, Whitehead said he’s “getting closer to where I need to be.” “I’m currently getting my legs where they need to be and my explosiveness is getting back as well,” he said. “When you’re out for six months you sort of lose your bounce a little bit. Now, I’m trying to get my first step back so I can get back to my regular self and hopefully be able to play above the rim soon.”
  • Lonnie Walker signed a one-year, minimum salary contract with the Nets as unrestricted free agent over the summer. To this point, he has been an absolute bargain, stepping up while Simmons and leading scorer Cam Thomas are out with injuries, per Lewis of The New York Post. “He’s just continuing to make plays for us on both ends of the floor,” said head coach Jacque Vaughn. “He’s flying around on the defensive end of the floor, which we need. And then offensively, you see his ability to attack the rim.” Through 11 games (21.6 MPG), Walker is averaging a career-best 15.7 PPG on an excellent .508/.439/.769 shooting line.
  • According to Lewis of The New York Post (subscriber link), Brooklyn theoretically has a roster that could put together one of the better defenses in the league, with two former Defensive Player of the Year runner-ups in Simmons (2021) and Mikal Bridges (2022), along with a strong back-line anchor in Nic Claxton. But the Nets currently have the NBA’s 23rd-ranked defense, with injuries to Simmons and Claxton playing a factor in that poor figure. As Lewis writes, the coaches want the team to take more risks to force more turnovers, which the Nets haven’t been doing to this point — they’re last in the league in opponent turnovers.
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