ben simmons
Brad Penner | USA TODAY Sports

We now have a Ben Simmons hot stove league.

The Nets guard will have back surgery on Thursday. The specific procedure is a microdiscectomy. That is when small fragments of disc, bone and ligament are removed to reduce the pressure a herniated disc puts on a nerve, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Simmons will go under the knife after consulting with “multiple” back specialists, according to the Nets. His recovery is expected to take 3-4 months, according to ESPN, so he should be ready for training camp in September. Simmons has yet to take the floor for the Nets, of course. Whenever he finally does play again, it will be well over a year after his last appearance for the 76ers during the Eastern Conference finals in 2021.

The surgery announcement is the latest twist in the ongoing Simmons drama. And at this point, nothing makes much sense.

How Simmons got hurt without playing remains a valid question, but put that aside for now. You don’t have back surgery to keep up appearances. There is clearly something physically wrong with him. But that begs another question: Why did Simmons’ camp and/or the Nets undercut him by pumping up expectations and pressure?

Someone had to feed the various NBA nugget merchants with breathless practice updates to gin up anticipation for a postseason return. Someone put Game 4 of the Celtics series on the table. And then someone pulled the plug and implied it was more of a mental health challenge. And the whole time the guy had a back issue that requires surgery?

Simmons is never going to be a sympathetic figure after the way he left Philadelphia. But a lot of headaches and hot takes could have been avoided with some common sense and transparency. The Nets’ season was already sabotaged by Kyrie Irving’s vaccine refusal and it never made much sense to throw Simmons into a playoff series mid-stream with a group of guys he had never played with. He never should have been put in this position. Just say the guy wasn’t going to play and move on.

Now the Nets have to hope everything goes well and it is smooth sailing from here. It probably won’t be, but there’s always hope. And that is much easier to comprehend than whatever the last few week have been.

James Kratch can be reached at

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.