After nearly three months and 38 games away, Ben Simmons returned to the floor for the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night.
The oft-injured guard came off the bench and looked very solid in the Nets’ 147-114 win over the Utah Jazz at the Barclays Center. He finished just shy of a triple-double in the win, where he dropped 10 points with 11 assists and eight rebounds. Simmons shot a perfect 5-of-5 from the field, but all five shots were taken from inside the restricted area just a few feet from the basket. Simmons only played 18 minutes, too, something head coach Jacque Vaughn said was planned before the game.
Simmons had been out since Nov. 6 while he recovered from a pinched nerve in his back. Vaughn teased last week that there was a “high likelihood” that Simmons would return against the Jazz while he was ramping up with the Nets’ G League affiliate last weekend. On Sunday, Simmons received a probable designation before being upgraded to available.
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The three-time All-Star has played in only 48 games, and made just 39 starts, for the Nets since the Philadelphia 76ers traded him to Brooklyn in 2022. Simmons entered Monday night averaging just 6.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 6.7 assists in only six games this season. He missed three games in November due to a hip contusion, and then an MRI later revealed a nerve impingement on the lower left side of his back.
Simmons wasted very little time on Monday night. He came in and had six assists in just five minutes of play in the first quarter, including an impressive no-look pass into the low post. He’s the first Nets player to register six or more assists in a first quarter off the bench since quarter stats were first tracked.
The Nets led nearly the entire way, and opened the fourth quarter on a 14-5 run before pushing ahead to their 33-point win. Mikal Bridges led the Nets with 33 points while shooting 12-of-24 from the field. Cam Thomas added 25 points, and Lonnie Walker finished with 19 points off the bench. Simmons had just two of his 10 points in the first half, but he had seven assists and six rebounds at the break.
Though the Nets have now won back-to-back games, they’ve only won four times in their last 16 outings. They hold a 19-27 record, and will host the Phoenix Suns next on Wednesday night.