Ben Simmons returns after missing months with back injury, nearly drops triple-double in Nets' win over Jazz

Ben Simmons was 2 rebounds shy of triple-double

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 played only 18 minutes, too, something head coach Jacque Vaughn said was planned before the game.

"We got the win, so yes," Simmons said when asked if it was a successful return, via ESPN. "That's the main objective for me, and that's really all I care about."

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.

"People don't see the work that goes in behind the scenes," Simmons said, via ESPN. "So it took a lot of effort and, and patience and time to get back to where I'm at now. Every single day, every morning, every day, I'm working to get back on the floor. That's not online. You don't see that. So for me and everyone that has seen that and seen my discipline over the last two months, it's great to see it pay off."

Ben Simmons played in his first game since Nov. 6 on Monday night.
Ben Simmons played in his first game since Nov. 6 on Monday night. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Simmons wasted very little time Monday night. He had six assists in five minutes of play in the first quarter, including an impressive no-look pass into the low post. He’s the first Net 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 off the bench. Simmons had 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 won only four times in their past 16 outings. They hold a 19-27 record, and will host the Phoenix Suns next on Wednesday night.

"Extremely impressive," Vaughn said of Simmons' night, via ESPN. "Other people played so well tonight because of the impact of Ben Simmons. It's that simple.

"The looks that we got tonight, the amount of 3s that we got tonight, the fast-break points that we got tonight, the uncontested looks that we got tonight, the pace that we played with ... we did it on both ends of the floor. And Ben deserves an extreme amount of credit for the way he played tonight."