Ben Simmons recently received a planned epidural injection to aid in the recovery of his left lower back nerve impingement.
While Simmons’ condition continues to improve, the Nets announced on Saturday that he will be out at least two more weeks. The 6-10 guard missed his 12th straight game on Saturday because of the injury and has not played since Nov. 6.
“So the epidural happened within the course of this week here,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said. “It was just a part of his getting back to playing and that is a part of his treatment… No setbacks. Right now he’s still doing low-level stuff on the court. So no rebounding drills, no sprinting up the floor.”
Brooklyn will visit Atlanta on Wednesday and host Washington on Friday — two games that were added to the team’s regular-season schedule after it failed to qualify for the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals. The Nets will then embark on a five-game West Coast road trip where they will face Sacramento, Phoenix, Denver, Golden State and Utah.
Simmons’ next evaluation will come on Dec. 16 when Brooklyn visits the Warriors at Chase Center. In the meantime, the team said he will continue to undergo treatment and participate in strengthening exercises while gradually increasing his basketball activity.
Simmons has averaged 6.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 6.7 assists across six starts this season. The Nets have an offensive rating of 111.5 with him on the court.
SMITH, O’NEALE RETURN
Dennis Smith Jr. returned to the court on Saturday after missing six straight games because of a lower back sprain. The guard’s overall production has not exactly jumped off the page this season, but Vaughn said the team missed his competitiveness.
Brooklyn has a defensive rating of 110.4 with Smith on the court this versus a rating of 115.8 with him off it.
“We missed his ability to drive our group,” Vaughn said. “A nastiness about him that I love. A fierceness… He can guard multiple positions… a lot of guys that he can guard and we missed that.”
Smith’s return also offers another backcourt player who can help relieve Spencer Dinwiddie, who had averaged 37.7 minutes a night at point guard over his last five appearances entering Saturday’s games.
“Missing Dennis [creates] a trickle effect with our group,” Vaughn said. “These guys have stepped up and played additional minutes, but I have to be cognizant of that also.”
Forward Royce O’Neale also returned to the rotation after missing Thursday’s game against Charlotte because of a left hip contusion.
WALKER, FINNEY-SMITH OUT
Dorian Finney-Smith (right knee/foot soreness) joined Lonnie Walker IV (left hamstring strain) on the inactive list about 30 minutes before tipoff on Saturday. It was Finney-Smith’s first absence of the season and Walker’s second.
Cam Thomas started in place of Finney-Smith.