SAN ANTONIO — The Nets got some much-needed good news on the injury front, with Ben Simmons cleared to return Tuesday against the Spurs.
Simmons missed his 11th game of the season in Sunday’s loss to Oklahoma City, a late scratch with back soreness that came on quickly during pregame warm-ups. His status had been up in the air for the Spurs game, but he was removed from the injury list on Monday evening and cleared to suit up.
“He’ll be on the trip with us so hopefully it’s one game. I hope so,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn had said of Simmons before the latest update.
Considering Simmons had missed all of last season with a herniated disk that eventually required surgery, his name being mentioned in the same sentence with the word “back” understandably worries Nets fans. But the 26-year-old is not believed to have needed an MRI exam or any other imaging, and seems to have escaped any serious setbacks.
With the Nets already without superstar Kevin Durant for several weeks thanks to a sprained MCL suffered on Jan. 8 in Miami, they can ill afford to have any more attrition.
In their first game after the Durant injury, Simmons had 13 assists and nine rebounds against Eastern Conference-leading Boston on Thursday. But he did go a scoreless 0-for-3 from the floor in the 109-98 loss to the Celtics, then missed Sunday’s loss to the Thunder when Kyrie Irving was overworked and the last man standing from their current Big 3.
“When anybody’s out on our team, the way we’re structured, we’re built to be a great multidimensional team, multiple options on positions,” Irving said. “So when those two guys aren’t in there obviously the other guys have to fill in and we just have to find our rhythm defensively, make sure we know our rotations.
“So the little things matter, us staying communicative and just not holding our heads after losses. It’s no time to start pointing fingers or listening to some external voice that has nothing to do with what we got going on. So just pay attention to what we can control.”
Nic Claxton is riding a string of eight straight games with three or more blocks. It’s the longest in the NBA this season, and behind only Shawn Bradley in Nets history: 11 in a row in February-March, 1996.
Claxton has a team-high 12 double-doubles, after notching just five in his first three seasons combined.
Durant (right MCL sprain) is injured, while David Duke Jr., Kessler Edwards and Dru Smith are all out against San Antonio, on G-League assignment with Long Island.
Doug McDermott is questionable for San Antonio with upper-back tightness. Dominick Barlow (G-League), Charles Bassey (G-League), Devin Vassell (left knee) and Blake Wesley (G-League) are all out for the Spurs.
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