Brooklyn Nets star Ben Simmons will miss at least three games due to a left lateral upper calf strain, the team announced Wednesday. Simmons left the Nets’ win over the Orlando Magic on Monday night due to the issue and did not return to the game. 

Simmons checked out for good with 9:03 remaining in the second quarter, and apparently asked to be taken out of the game, according to Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn.

“He had some left knee soreness, that same knee. Asked to be pulled out of the game,” Vaughn said postgame. “We’ll check him day by day, see how he responds with a little treatment, see what it looks like [Tuesday].”

Simmons has already missed multiple games due to knee soreness this season, and Vaughn noted that an increased workload is likely to blame for the persistent issue. 

“He hasn’t had this amount of accumulation of games over a period of a long time,” Vaughn said. “We were warned about that just as these games start to add up. It’s really stretching him the amount of games we’ve just had, with the minutes he’s played.” 

Due to his dispute with the Philadelphia 76ers, and a herniated disc in his back post-trade to the Nets that later required surgery, Simmons had not played in an NBA game in 16 months prior to suiting up on opening night this season. The long layoff, combined with some injuries, has forced the Nets to be cautious with him. He was moved to the bench at one point this season and has often played limited minutes. 

As his play improved in recent weeks, however, he was moved back into the starting lineup and regularly played significant minutes. Over an 11-day period from Nov. 17 until Nov. 27, he played at least 32 minutes in six consecutive games. Monday’s matchup with the Magic, which came on the second night of a back-to-back, was apparently a breaking point. 

Simmons’ return to the sideline will be frustrating news for both him and the team. He was playing by far the best basketball of his Nets tenure this month, with a 22-point, eight-rebound, five-assist outing in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies among the standout performances. With Kyrie Irving also back in the lineup, the Nets have won five of their last seven games to get back to .500 at 11-11. Losing Simmons for at least three games won’t help this team fight its way back into contention.

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