MIAMI — Injured Nets point forward Ben Simmons has been diagnosed with a nerve impingement in his back after a reevaluation on Friday.
Simmons will remain out of action while the Nets determine the best long-term course of treatment.
But with just nine games left on the regular season schedule and the Nets having slumped into the play-in, it appears all but certain that the 26-year-old Simmons will not return to the court until next season.
In November, Simmons said he had a nerve injury that would take a year-and-a-half to fully recover from.
“Yeah, it takes time to build, especially with having a nerve injury,” Simmons said. “It takes 18 months for your nerves to fully heal. People don’t know that. But over time, you know, I get better and better. Just keep pushing.”
The Nets’ must-win clash Saturday against the Heat will mark the 16th straight game that Simmons has missed with left knee and back soreness.
He hasn’t played since Feb. 15, and he received platelet-rich plasma injections before the All-Star break.
While coach Jacque Vaughn has steadfastly insisted there have been “zero talks” of shutting Simmons down and has maintained he expects the point-forward back, the latest update is ominous.
A return at this point almost strains credulity.
“I don’t even think that far ahead, my man,” Vaughn had said of Simmons’ potential return.
“I don’t even complicate my life that way. I’m concerned about [now]. If those questions present themselves, I’ll be more than willing to see how it fits with the group and answer them at that time,” Vaughn continued.
More and more, it seems like “that time” might be next season, not this season.
Simmons has played just 42 games this season, averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists — all career lows.
He didn’t play at all last season after the Nets dealt former MVP James Harden to Philadelphia at the trade deadline for him.
A herniated L-4 disk forced Simmons to have a microdiscectomy procedure last May.
Since then, the top overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft has been robbed of much of his old explosiveness — at least so far this season.
Simmons is set to make $37.9 million next season and $40.3 million in 2024-25.
As the only All-Star still on the Nets’ roster (he has made three All-Star Games), getting Simmons back to at least a reasonable facsimile of his former level is a top priority for the team.
Simmons, who left agent Rich Paul and Klutch Sports for Bernie Lee, declined to comment this week when asked by The Post about his injury.