Ben Simmons nearing Nets return from sore knee
DALLAS — Ben Simmons could be on the verge of a return to the court after he was upgraded from out to questionable for the Nets’ game Monday against the Mavericks.
The 26-year-old Simmons has missed the past four games with a sore left knee. He wasn’t been with the Nets for the start of their current trip — which opened with wins at Washington and Charlotte — and instead remained back in Brooklyn.
An MRI exam this past week came up clean, and Simmons had his knee drained to get the swelling out.
Simmons is averaging 6.2 points, 7.3 assists and 6.5 rebounds, although he is shooting just 44.4 percent from the free-throw line.
After missing all of last season and undergoing offseason back surgery, he hasn’t looked as explosive on offense or as impactful on defense. He began the season largely playing point guard before then-coach Steve Nash progressively moved him more off the ball and used him as a playmaking big man.
When Simmons returns (whether it’s Monday or on Wednesday against the Knicks at Barclays Center), it remains to be seen how interim coach Jacque Vaughn will deploy him. With Kyrie Irving suspended, Vaughn has started Edmond Sumner at point guard to push the pace and has gone small to help the defense.
“Yeah, that’s going to be something to be determined,” Vaughn said. “I think a big piece of it is seeing Seth [Curry] and see how he fits in with Joe [Harris] and Royce [O’Neale] and our wings, how we still continue to use the energy group that was David Duke and Sumner off the bench. … So I still want to reward those guys for their effort. But it’d really be to be determined how we fit it all together.”
Kessler Edwards (G-League), T.J. Warren (left foot) and Donovan Williams (G-League) all will miss the game Monday.
The Nets held the Wizards to 36.1 percent shooting and held the Hornets to 37.2 percent in their past two games. That’s the first time they limited consecutive foes to under 40 percent since Nov. 22-24, 2021.
Yuta Watanabe, who was in the closing lineup versus the Hornets on Saturday, has averaged 10.7 points, on 65 percent shooting and 60 percent from 3-point range, in his last three games.
Nic Claxton’s 24 blocks through 10 games are the most by a Net since 2015-16, and his 72.7 percent shooting is the best start for the franchise since 2014-15.
The Pelicans’ CJ McCollum, who is president of the NBPA, commented on Irving social media promotion an anti-Semitic film.
“He’s displayed empathy now. I think this is a learning experience in which I don’t think he understood the magnitude of the movie,” McCollum said Saturday. “I don’t think he understood the magnitude of the people that were affected, how they were impacted and how fast hate can spread and how this can snowball.”
Irving, who has at least three more games left on his suspension, briefly flirted with going to the Lakers this offseason in a sign-and-trade scenario. The Lakers, according to an ESPN report, were reluctant to give Irving a long-term commitment.