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As the season draws to a close, the Nets are still waiting for Ben Simmons (knee/back) to return from injury

As the Nets approach the final 10 games of their regular season, head coach Jacque Vaughn believes beleaguered star forward Ben Simmons will return from the combination of soreness in his back and left knee that has sidelined him. game since the NBA All-Star on February 19. break.

Vaughn said for the fifth time since Simmons had fluid drained from his left knee and received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection during halftime that he has had “no conversation” about shutting down the former All-Star forward for the rest of the season. . of the regular season.

Asked if he’s operating on the belief that Simmons will play again this season, Vaughn said: “He’s definitely operating on that belief. … There hasn’t been any talk about him not playing. We are waiting for him to return. We are waiting for him to return.”

Simmons missed five straight games from January 28 to February 6 with left knee pain. He returned to the rotation and played five straight games before the All-Star break and hasn’t played since the nine-day break.

Vaughn said Simmons reported pain in both his back and left knee, but said Thursday that he hasn’t had any hiccups during his rehab and has progressed to “do some work on the court.”

Vaughn declined to provide details about the nature of Simmons’ practice work.

“I’m just going to say on the court so we don’t have an interpretation of how many people were on the court, how many balls were on the court, how many defenders,” he said.

He also declined to provide an injury schedule.

“The ultimate goal was for us not to have a recurrence (of the pain in my lower back and left knee),” Vaughn said. “We get feedback every time he’s on the court, what the strengthening has done to both his back and knee to see if we’re in a good place. So we’re just taking day-to-day feedback to see how he responds, and there have been no hiccups, which is good.”

Simmons is averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists in 42 games for the Nets this season. Thursday night’s matchup against the Sacramento Kings marked the 28th game he has missed due to injury this season.

Vaughn said there’s nothing he can see of Simmons on the practice court that will determine whether or not the forward can play.

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“We’re just trying to get to a place where it feels good to be back on the court. That’s the ultimate goal, to get him to a place where he’s pain-free and inflammation-free and ready to play,” he said. “We want him to get back to the rim, he wants to get back to the rim, and that’s definitely the goal.”

The Nets entered Thursday night with a 5-6 record in games Simmons has missed since the All-Star break. They are 24-18 in games Simmons has played this season, but are just 2-2 in games Simmons has played since the NBA’s Feb. 9 trade deadline.

However, it’s worth noting that the Nets expected Simmons to return from injury last season after receiving an epidural to relieve pain associated with a herniated disc in his lower back. The Nets suggested that Simmons was day-to-day during the playoffs. Before the deciding Game 4 in the first round against the Celtics, he was ruled out by the Nets due to lower back pain.

Vaughn agrees that his team must capitalize on a brutal four-game homestand if the Nets are to clinch their playoff position.

After going 3-2 on a five-game road trip, the Nets hosted the Sacramento Kings on Thursday, then hosted the Denver Nuggets, followed by back-to-back games against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Each of those teams are projected second-round playoff teams at a minimum. The Nets arrived Thursday night one game behind the Knicks, who are fifth in the Eastern Conference and two games ahead of the seventh-seeded Miami Heat.

“It is important in several ways. First of all, at the moment we are in the season and trying to take advantage of every opportunity. Every game you watch, every night you watch games, they’re all important for one reason or another,” Vaughn said. “I think what I’m looking for is, on the road, we played some really good quarters, we played some great halves as well, so can we put four quarters together? That’s what I’m looking for because if you don’t do it this week, you’ll definitely pay for it. That’s definitely what I’m looking forward to.”

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