Ben Simmons

Nets Notes: Fernandez, Marks, Simmons, Whitehead, B. Johnson

At his introductory press conference on Wednesday, new Nets head coach Jordi Fernandez was optimistic about a quick turnaround following a disappointing 2023/24 season, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

We will see results right away,” Fernandez said. “This industry is about getting results and getting better. So how much are you gonna get better? It’s how we believe the process is important.

We know that there’s proper steps to take and we’ll see improvement right away. But the most important thing to me is to believe in team success over personal success.”

Fernandez added that he was enthusiastic about the young talent on Brooklyn’s roster, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

The youth excites me,” Fernandez said. “When you have a young roster — and talented — that means you’re going to have those guys for a long time. So you can develop them, and then they can perform at their best, and they’re here with you. So that’s extremely exciting.”

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • GM Sean Marks said one of the reasons Fernandez stood out was his ability to coach players at various stages of their careers, according to Lewis. “Something that separates Jordi from a lot of the candidates (is), we found that he could look at a developmental roster, he could do various different pathways,” Marks said. “He’s coached stars before, he’s been the head director of development before so he’s worn many hats and there’s no roster that he’s not going to be able to get the respect of those guys.” Marks noted that as a big market, Brooklyn has an inherent ability to attract stars, which could accelerate the team’s timeline.
  • Marks said the team expects Ben Simmons to be ready for training camp in the fall, as Adam Zagoria of nj.com relays (subscription required). “There should be no reason not to,” Marks said. “I mean, the doctors and therapists and so forth have told us that he should be ready to go next season. Again, it’s going to be on Ben’s timeline. We’re going to have to see how he progresses through the summer.” Simmons was limited to 15 games in ’23/24 and underwent his second back surgery in two years last month.
  • Another injured Net, Dariq Whitehead, should be ready to go for Summer League in a few months, Marks told reporters, including Lucas Kaplan of NetsDaily.com. The 2023 first-round pick had season-ending surgery for a stress reaction in his left shin back in January.
  • They don’t currently control a draft pick in 2024, but Marks said the Nets could look to move into the draft if a player they like is available, Kaplan writes. Marks also suggested BJ Johnson, who is the team’s director of player evaluation, could be in line for a promotion after former front office executives Jeff Peterson and Ryan Gisriel left to join the Hornets. “I think some of our guys have done a terrific job,” Marks said, per Kaplan. “In terms of just simply drafting, I mean, you want to take BJ Johnson. BJ runs our draft and has done so for the last several years. So, there’ll be more pressure and more responsibility placed on several of the guys in-house here.”

Nets Notes: Schröder, Simmons, Clowney, Walker, Tsai

The Nets will have a decision to make a point guard this offseason, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Ben Simmons and Dennis Schröder, both of whom have been starters this season when healthy, will be entering the final year of their respective contracts. And while Simmons’ $40MM cap hit may ensure he remains in Brooklyn, it has been Schröder who has taken on a leadership role since being acquired at the trade deadline.

“He was a leader right when he got in,” interim head coach Kevin Ollie said. “He brings a championship mentality. … He just has a natural ability to lead, ability to win. You know winners when you see them. They hold everybody accountable, but they make themselves full of accountability, too. That’s what he did first and foremost.”

Schröder has been the healthier of the two players, making more appearances since being dealt to the Nets in February (29) than Simmons made all season (15) before undergoing back surgery last month. That track record of good health, along with his $13MM expiring contract, would make him easier to trade this summer than Simmons, who is still on a max deal. But Schröder has expressed a desire to stick with the Nets, as Lewis relays.

“I always want to be stationed somewhere where people show me appreciation,” he said on Wednesday. “And I felt that from the first day — people reaching out to my family, to my wife, to my mom. That shows, OK, they really [want me]. And the playing style, as well, I like. They trust me, in what I am capable of. … I know the business side of it as well. So, I’m not taking anything emotional or personal. I know how it is. But at the end of the day, of course I want to stay here.”

Here’s more out of Brooklyn:

  • Nets center Noah Clowney continues to make a positive impression in his late-season audition for a larger role next season, per Bridget Reilly of The New York Post. Making his second career start on Wednesday, the rookie big man racked up a career-high seven blocks to go with 10 points and seven rebounds in a win over Toronto. Ollie lauded the Nets’ G League coaching staff in Long Island for preparing Clowney to contribute at the NBA level. “I think they just did a great job coaching him, putting him in situations down there so when we got him he was already set,” Ollie said. “He knew exactly what we wanted to do, how he can perform, and he came in ready.”
  • Even with the Nets battling a series of injuries, Lonnie Walker has been a DNP-CD in two of the team’s past four games, according to Collin Helwig of NetsDaily, who believes Walker’s inconsistent role throughout the season signals that the two sides will go their separate ways when the veteran swingman becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.
  • NetsDaily passes along some notable quotes from a recent Joe Tsai podcast appearance in which the Nets’ owner discussed how he got involved in the NBA, his impressions of the league’s economics, and why it’s “absolutely fun” to control an NBA franchise.

Ben Simmons Undergoes Second Back Surgery

Nets guard/forward Ben Simmons underwent a successful microscopic partial discectomy on Thursday to alleviate the nerve impingement in his lower left back, the team announced in a press release (Twitter link via Michael Scotto of HoopsHype).

The former No. 1 overall pick is expected to make a full recovery ahead of training camp in the fall, the club added.

This is the second time Simmons has undergone back surgery in the past two years. His first surgery, a microdiscectomy back in May 2022, was to alleviate the pain and symptoms from a herniated disc on the right side of his spine.

A former three-time All-Star and two-time All-Defensive team member who also made the All-NBA Third Team in 2019/20, Simmons’ career has been derailed by injuries the past few seasons. After a lengthy holdout with Philadelphia, he was traded to Brooklyn in February 2022, but never played for the Nets in 2021/22.

Last season, Simmons averaged 6.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 6.1 APG and 1.3 SPG in 42 games (26.3 MPG), later admitting he hadn’t fully recovered from his first back surgery. Entering the ’23/24 campaign, the 27-year-old was far more optimistic, but was limited to just 15 games (23.9 MPG) after sustaining the nerve impingement in early November. He averaged 6.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG and 5.7 APG in those appearances.

Simmons was officially shut down for the season a week ago, as he was consulting with specialists and considering treatment options for the nerve impingement in his lower back. Obviously, it was decided that undergoing another surgery was the best course of action.

Simmons will be entering the final year of his current maximum-salary contract in ’24/25. He’s on track to earn $40,338,144 before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Nets Notes: Bridges, Simmons, Walker, Sharpe, Thomas

With multiple players injured for extended periods this season and the Nets declining offers of multiple first-round picks for him, the pressure has been on Mikal Bridges to be a star for Brooklyn, The New York Post’s Brian Lewis writes. Bridges is slumping as of late, averaging 15.6 points on 37.6% shooting in his past 10 games, and Lewis writes that it’s a result of not just being exhausted, but from getting a lack of offensive help elsewhere.

You know it hurts when you don’t have [Cam Thomas] or [Cameron Johnson] where they’re double-teaming [him], and you expect him to be Superman. But he’s just not Superman,” interim head coach Kevin Ollie said. “All the game plan is to [stop] him, to take him out of the game. And in this opportunity, he can learn through this. Even through struggle, you have an opportunity to find a lesson in it, and I think he’ll find a lesson in it. When he gets in this situation again, he’ll be better equipped.

Bridges is still having a career year, averaging bests in points, rebounds and assists. However, he hasn’t yet regained his post-2023 deadline self, when he averaged 26.1 points per game after being moved to Brooklyn. The recent slump isn’t helping, but the forward, who hasn’t missed a game since entering the NBA, insists it isn’t because he needs a break.

No, it’s just between missing shots and schemes on other teams. It’s just a mix of that,” Bridges said. “It’s not too many times where I come off and it’s easy looks now. And it’s just part of growth, and some are just gonna make me better [and] make the team better when it’s all said and done. But just get through that hump. But no, it’s just between making and missing shots.

We have more from the Nets:

  • Ben Simmons being shut down for the season leaves his future with the organization in question, Lewis writes in a separate story. Simmons has played just 57 of a possible 192 regular season games for the Nets and his $40.3MM salary next season makes it hard to move the former All-Defensive Team member in a trade. Lewis speculates the Nets could consider a buyout. Ollie didn’t say whether Simmons would require another surgery, but Brooklyn has to determine whether he’s a sunk cost, Lewis writes. “I hope his mental is fine,” Bridges said. “I just know getting hurt isn’t fun at all. It gets with you mentally, so hope he’s just all right and just hope [for a] speedy recovery.
  • Simmons’ career with the Nets may have been over before it started, The New York Post’s Dan Martin writes in a member-only article. Simmons was already showing a knack for unavailability before the Nets acquired him for James Harden. However, it’s worth noting Harden could’ve left for nothing in the offseason in 2022 if Brooklyn didn’t make the move, and taking a shot on a former top defender – who was 25 years old at the time – was a reasonable gamble.
  • Lonnie Walker has been a silver lining in an otherwise disappointing season for Brooklyn, Lewis writes (subscriber link). Walker is averaging 11.4 points while making 42.5% of his 5.1 three-point attempts per game after signing with Brooklyn on a one-year, minimum salary deal. He’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agency this offseason.
  • Day’Ron Sharpe (right wrist contusion) and Cam Thomas (right ankle/midfoot sprain) are both available for the Nets in Saturday’s matchup against the Hornets, according to SNY’s Ian Begley (Twitter link). Sharpe missed the past two games with his injury, while Thomas hasn’t played since Feb. 26. Sharpe is averaging 7.3 points and 6.7 rebounds while Thomas is scoring 20.9 points per game for Brooklyn this season.

Nets Rule Out Ben Simmons For Rest Of Season

The Nets have ruled Ben Simmons out for the remainder of the season, announcing today (via Twitter) that he’ll be shut down as he consults with specialists and considers treatment options for the nerve impingement in his lower back.

“Simmons, along with his representatives and Nets medical personnel, are currently in discussions with numerous experts to determine the course of action that will provide him with the best opportunity for long-term sustainable health,” the team said in its statement.

Simmons will finish the 2023/24 season having appeared in just 15 games. He averaged 6.1 points, 5.7 assists, and 7.9 rebounds in 23.9 minutes per contest.

It’s the third straight season in which Simmons’ availability and production has been extremely limited due to his back issues.

Following his holdout in 2021/22 and the trade that sent from Philadelphia to Brooklyn, the former No. 1 overall pick was unable to suit up for the Nets that season due to back pain and eventually underwent a microdiscectomy in the spring of 2022 in order to relieve the pain from a herniated disc.

Simmons returned in 2022/23 and appeared in 42 games for Brooklyn, but admitted later that he hadn’t fully recovered from the procedure on his back and was in pain for much of the season. Coming into ’23/24, he was optimistic about his health, indicating last August that he was eager to “come back and dominate.”

However, the nerve impingement in his back cost Simmons nearly three months early in the season and remained a problem even after he returned in January. Agent Bernie Lee spoke earlier this week about his efforts to find the right treatment to get his client past this lingering injury.

“We continue to try and find non-surgical options to allow Ben to move forward on a permanent basis and that is where this is my responsibility and I am (the) one to blame,” Lee said. “When I began working with Ben I made a commitment to him that I would do everything I could to find the right answers and specialists for him to work with (in order) to move forward from the issues he has been having. Clearly it hasn’t happened, and that’s my responsibility.

“… Come the offseason, we’re going to implement some processes and outside input that’ll allow him to finally move forward from this ongoing issue and resume his career at the levels he’s established prior to being injured.”

A three-time All-Star and former Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, Simmons is still just 27 years old, so if he can get healthy, he still has the potential to be one of the NBA’s better play-makers and defenders. However, physical and mental health issues have derailed his career since 2020/21 and have made his maximum-salary contract a cumbersome asset on Brooklyn’s books.

Simmons will be entering the final year of his current deal in 2024/25. He’s on track to earn $40,338,144 before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, McBride, Tillman, Celtics

The left lower back nerve impingement that is currently keeping Ben Simmons on the shelf is the same issue that affected him earlier this season, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv and Brian Lewis of The New York Post, who confirm that the Nets guard/forward didn’t suffer a new impingement.

Simmons’ agent Bernie Lee, referring to his client as day-to-day, said he continues to seek answers on how to get Simmons past this health issue, which has affected the former No. 1 overall pick for multiple seasons.

“We continue to try and find non-surgical options to allow Ben to move forward on a permanent basis and that is where this is my responsibility and I am (the) one to blame,” Lee said. “When I began working with Ben I made a commitment to him that I would do everything I could to find the right answers and specialists for him to work with (in order) to move forward from the issues he has been having. Clearly it hasn’t happened, and that’s my responsibility.

“… Come the offseason, we’re going to implement some processes and outside input that’ll allow him to finally move forward from this ongoing issue and resume his career at the levels he’s established prior to being injured.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Knicks aren’t surprised by the strides that Miles McBride has made as a shooter this season, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic, who notes that the third-year guard is making a strong case for rotation minutes even when everyone is healthy. As Stefan Bondy of The New York Post observes, the signing of Shake Milton will give New York another option in an increasingly crowded backcourt. However, Katz suggests that Milton is viewed as a depth piece and that McBride’s performance should keep him ahead of Milton – and Alec Burks – on the team’s depth chart.
  • Celtics newcomer Xavier Tillman has made a positive impression on his new teammates, according to Brian Robb of MassLive.com and Jay King of The Athletic. Tillman played just three total minutes in his first seven games as a Celtic (he missed four of those games while recovering from a knee injury), but has scored 13 points across 33 minutes and been a +26 in Boston’s past two games. “X looked good out there, man,” Jaylen Brown said after Friday’s win over Dallas. “It’s like, he fit right in. He came right in and made contributions on defense, got a few rebounds, got some stops. Offense, you could tell he got a good feel for the game. A good screen setter.”
  • The Celtics‘ offensive success this season stems in large part from the fact that their top eight players are all reliable three-point shooters on relatively high volume, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Hollinger considers whether it’s just a matter of time until the NBA features several more teams that look like the Celtics or whether Boston is an anomaly due to the difficulty of building a roster that has that many shooters and still plays strong defense.

Atlantic Notes: Maxey, Sixers, Simmons, Barnes, Agbaji

Tyrese Maxey capped a rare weekend at home by leading the Sixers to a win at Dallas on Sunday afternoon, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Garland, Texas, native had a large contingent of family members in the crowd to watch his 24-point performance in a much-needed road victory. He had an injury scare when he was struck in the back of the head late in the third quarter, but he said the presence of his family inspired him to keep playing.

“I will say this, when I did hit my head, I saw my twin nieces,” Maxey said. “They were up, like, ‘Boy, you better get up and you better be OK, or we’re coming down there.’”

Pompey notes that Maxey has been forced to become Philadelphia’s primary scorer in the wake of Joel Embiid‘s meniscus injury. At the beginning of the season, coach Nick Nurse wanted Maxey to focus on running the offense and improving his defense. But the loss of Embiid created a need for Maxey to carry more of the offensive load, and the recent addition of Kyle Lowry has taken away some of his play-making duties.

“He’s clearly our best offensive player, like, clearly, and we need him to shoot a lot,” Nurse said. “And he’s still not quite thinking, ‘I’m coming down, I’m going to shoot it like five times in a row if I make one.’ I’m still pushing the aggressive part of it first and foremost, because it’s really not his total nature yet.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Sixers have won back-to-back games since Nurse inserted Lowry and Mohamed Bamba into the starting lineup, Pompey notes in a separate story. Backup big man Paul Reed is coming off the bench again like he was when Embiid was healthy. “I think he’s comfortable in that role,” Maxey said. “That’s the role he plays when the big fella is here. So I think it just got him going. He was out there playing with a lot more energy. I think he likes the new role.”
  • Ben Simmons remains on the Nets‘ injury report, although the reason has changed, per Jared Schwartz of The New York Post. Simmons missed the last two games with left leg soreness and sat out the game before that due to rest and maintenance because he hasn’t received medical clearance to play in back-to-backs. He has been ruled out for tonight with a left lower back nerve impingement, a condition that caused him to miss a significant chunk of time earlier this season, tweets Ian Begley of SNY.
  • Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic said “nothing is off the table” in terms of treatment for Scottie Barnes, who fractured a bone in his left hand last week, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. Barnes’ absence has already created an opportunity for Ochai Agbaji, acquired from Utah at the trade deadline, who made his first start with Toronto Sunday night.

New York Notes: Hart, DiVincenzo, Simmons, Claxton

With so many regulars missing due to injuries, the Knicks have been leaning heavily on forward Josh Hart, who has played at least 40 minutes in six of the team’s past seven games, including 47:10 in Thursday’s loss to Golden State. After admitting earlier in the season that his Team USA stint last summer might be catching up with him, Hart has welcomed the extra playing time and shown no signs of hitting a wall, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post.

“At the end of the day as a competitor I want to play,” Hart said following Thursday’s game. “If I went out, especially if we were making a run and I got (taken) out, I’m mad. You know what I mean? I want to play as much as I can.”

Head coach Tom Thibodeau told Botte and other reporters that he’s “always talking” to Hart about his workload and that he’s pleased with how the 28-year-old has responded to his increased role.

“He’s handled it well,” Thibodeau said. “Obviously, we’re shorthanded right now so that’s what’s required. But (he had) 18 rebounds, seven assists (on Thursday). And he’s a great defender, so we need him right now.”

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • While Donte DiVincenzo is a long shot to suit up for Italy in this year’s Olympics, the Knicks wing said in a conversation with Simone Sandri of Gazzetta Dello Sport that he hopes to represent the national team in the years to come, even if he can’t get his Italian passport in time for Paris this summer.
  • Fred Katz of The Athletic examines a few areas of concern for the Knicks, including the offensive production from the first unit and all the teams that are right on their heels in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
  • Nets guard/forward Ben Simmons missed a third consecutive game on Saturday due to left leg soreness, writes Jared Schwartz of The New York Post. Simmons has been limited to 15 appearances in 2023/24, including just 10 since playing the first five games of the season.
  • The Nets only have a couple more months to experiment with the way they use Nic Claxton before they’ll have to pay up to retain him in free agency, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post (subscription required). As Lewis details, Claxton and Simmons have remained altogether incompatible in their minutes sharing the court, and while Simmons was a major part of Brooklyn’s game plan entering this season, Claxton now looks like the player who will be a bigger part of the franchise’s plans going forward.

New York Notes: Anunoby, DiVincenzo, Simmons, Graham

Forward OG Anunoby has been cleared to do some on-court work, but still isn’t doing any contact, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau told ESPN’s Tim Bontemps (Twitter link) and other media members on Thursday.

Anunoby underwent elbow surgery earlier this month. At that time, he was ruled out for at least three weeks. He hasn’t suited up since Jan. 27.

Isaiah Hartenstein is returning to action against Golden State on Thursday evening after missing Tuesday’s game against New Orleans due to Achilles soreness. Jalen Brunson, who also sat out Tuesday due to neck spasms, will play tonight too, Steve Popper of Newsday tweets.

We have more on the New York teams:

  • Donte DiVincenzo‘s impact on the Knicks’ offense during this injury-filled stretch can’t be overstated, Popper writes in a subscriber-only story for Newsday. DiVincenzo is averaging 22.2 points and 3.2 assists this month.
  • The Nets’ Ben Simmons is sitting out against the Hawks on Thursday due to left leg soreness, Ian Begley of SNY TV tweets. Simmons has appeared in eight games this month, averaging 5.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 18.8 minutes.
  • With the Nets losing assistant general manager Jeff Peterson, who is heading to the Hornets as their head of basketball operations, Pelicans assistant GM Bryson Graham could be a candidate to replace him, according to Net Income. Graham is currently working under GM Trajan Langdon, who was also a candidate for the Hornets job.

Nets Notes: Thomas, Simmons, Ollie, Offense

Nets guard Cam Thomas was forced to exit Monday’s game early due to a right ankle sprain and has been ruled out for Tuesday’s contest in Orlando, but he said that he doesn’t think this injury is as significant as the one that cost him nearly a month earlier in the season, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

“That’s the way it feels, less severe,” said Thomas, who missed nine games in November due to a left ankle sprain. “I should be fine.”

According to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and TNT (Twitter link), Thomas underwent an X-ray on the injured ankle on Monday night and the results came back negative.

“Yeah, I mean I’m able to walk on it, so it’s not bad,” Thomas said. “We’ll take it day by day. But it’s not as bad as last time, so I’m not really concerned.”

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • As expected, Ben Simmons has been ruled out for Tuesday’s game vs. the Magic due to left lower back injury maintenance, tweets Lewis. Simmons didn’t suffer a setback in his 14 minutes of action on Monday, but hasn’t yet been cleared to play both ends of back-to-back sets. “I think I’m getting closer,” Simmons said on Monday. “So hopefully (soon).”
  • Kevin Ollie earned his first win as the Nets’ head coach on Monday, as Brooklyn registered a 111-86 victory over the Grizzlies.“Yeah, I got the game ball. It’ll go in my office first. Definitely gonna touch it and put it up for my mom in heaven and my sister in heaven,” Ollie said after the win, according to Lewis. “I know they were watching over me in this first win. So definitely gonna raise it up and toast to them.” Ollie replaced Jacque Vaughn over the All-Star break and lost his first two games as the Nets’ interim head coach.
  • Prior to Monday’s game, the Nets’ 105.5 offensive rating in February was tied for the worst mark in the NBA. However, as Lewis details for The New York Post, Ollie was confident that Brooklyn’s recent offensive struggles were more about players missing shots they’d normally make rather than a fundamental issue with the team’s system. “It’s just still understanding each other’s strengths,” Ollie said after Saturday’s loss in Minnesota. “… The offense was giving us great looks. I mean, (Cameron Johnson) missed a couple of them, perfect plays and perfect ball movement, peel and play, which just is what we want. So we’ve just got to make sure that we make those shots, and I think it’ll turn around.” The Nets scored 119.4 points per 100 possessions in Monday’s win.