Nets’ Ben Simmons gets epidural to relieve back pain

Ben Simmons had an epidural injection this week to help relieve his back pain, after a top orthopedic expert told The Post the injured Nets star would need just such an injection.

It’s unclear when, or even if, Simmons will make his season debut. He first held out while with the 76ers, and since his trade to the Nets, he has been mired in a long ramp-up process that has been hampered by back soreness. Nets coach Steve Nash said the All-Star stayed in Brooklyn and had the injection while the Nets were on their trip to play the Magic.

“Ben had an epidural while we were in Orlando, the idea being to try to accelerate his recovery and take some of the irritation down,” Nash said. “So hopefully that will help him relieve some of the symptoms and be able to recover quicker and accelerate that process.”

The process has been long and winding, with stops and starts.

Simmons hasn’t played since last June 20, when he was with the Sixers, and is now dealing with at least his fourth back injury in the past two years. ESPN reported Wednesday the current problem is an irritation of the L4 disk of the lower spine, and that there’s hope he will be able to return for a “couple” of regular-season games.

Ben Simmons
NBAE via Getty Images

Multiple orthopedists told The Post on Monday that Simmons was unlikely to play in the regular season. Dr. Rahul Shah, the Magic’s former team physician, surmised that Simmons would require an epidural cortisone shot, and possibly even offseason surgery, which the Nets hope to avoid.

“I don’t think anyone’s talked about a procedure, so that’d be a way-down-the-line scenario. We expect him back at some point,” Nash said. “I don’t think they’re in the dark as far as what’s hurting him. It’s just a matter of finding things that he’ll respond best to.”

While the epidural could alleviate the pain, it may not solve the root cause of Simmons’ back problem. If it works for a month or two, that would let Simmons get on the court, continue his ramp-up and, the Nets hope, get cleared to practice and eventually play.

If it doesn’t, that could indicate a need for more extreme measures. For now, however, the Nets and Simmons will wait to see if the injection takes hold, and if so, for how long.

“Yeah, see how it responds to the epidural,” Nash said. “Then maybe he can play.”

But staying on-brand for their tight-lipped ways, the Nets offered no timeline for when Simmons will get back on the floor.

“I don’t have any update on that,” Nash said. “No, it just depends, like I said, on the epidural and how he responds. And then we can start to formulate a plan.”

Simmons’ back has already blown up the Nets’ plans, such as the hope he would practice by last Saturday or the potential for a debut on Friday. Now the goal is for Simmons to make his first appearance with the Nets just before the April 10 regular-season finale.

“I don’t think that’s happening. I think the odds are against it. … Until you fundamentally change the underlying problem,” Shah told The Post. “I don’t think he’s coming back [this season].”

Nets guard Ben Simmons picks up a loose ball on the court as fans react in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on March 10, 2022 in Philadelphia.
Ben Simmons
Getty Images

Simmons was the centerpiece of the Nets’ trade of James Harden to Philadelphia. He was a runner-up for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year last season, when he averaged 14.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists, and the Nets are looking forward to getting him on the floor — whenever that may be.

“Ben’s a great fit for our group. He brings so many things that we need,” Nash said. “We still have to go through the process of incorporating him and finding that cohesion and understanding the rhythm and timing and all those things.

“We feel confident that our team can be extremely competitive and match up with anybody in a playoff situation. At the same time we’re not going to think too hard and long about ‘Do we have to wait for next year?’ No, we’re going to play what’s in front of us. … Hopefully he can come back because we think he’s a fantastic fit and he does a lot of things that we really need on the basketball floor.”

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