Nets’ Simmons late scratch because of sore back

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NEW YORK — The Brooklyn NetsBen Simmons was a late scratch for Sunday’s 112-100 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder because of back soreness.

Nets coach Jacque Vaughn did not think Simmons would need an MRI on his back and was hopeful this latest setback would not put him out long. The Nets begin a stretch of five straight road games starting Tuesday night in San Antonio.

“He went through warmups, felt some tightness,” Vaughn said. “So that was the report I had, and then he was a late scratch. He’ll be on the trip with us, so hopefully it’s one game.”

Simmons, who has now missed 11 games this season because of various injuries, had back surgery over the summer and has struggled to find a consistent rhythm. He recorded 13 assists and nine rebounds in Friday’s 109-98 loss to the Boston Celtics but did not register a point and went 0-for-3 from the field.

Vaughn said after Saturday’s practice that all players besides Kevin Durant — out with an MCL strain in his right knee — came through the practice in good shape, but Simmons’ late scratch is a reminder of how tricky his back situation continues to be for a team that needs him to produce on the floor now more than ever.

Nets guard Kyrie Irving remains confident that the group can keep winning despite Durant’s absence.

“I don’t think we’re going to struggle with Kevin out,” Irving said after Sunday’s game. “That’s not my belief. I know guys in the locker room don’t believe that. And this isn’t last year at all. … We just want to control our focus level and how we prepare out there.”

Simmons said after Friday’s game that he knows he must be more aggressive offensively, especially as the Nets play without Durant over the next month as he continues to recover from the MCL injury.

“Being assertive, being aggressive and knowing that my team needs that,” a reflective Simmons said Friday. “I think I’m giving the ball up way too many times when I know who I am, I know I need to get to the rim, get buckets. And that’s also going to help my teammates get them going.”

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