Ben Simmons underwent back surgery on Thursday to address a herniated disc in his back, an injury that flared up at just the wrong time and kept him out of a first-round series against the Boston Celtics.
The murky timeline of Simmons’ injury has left many analysts doubting whether Simmons was truly too hurt to play at all this season. Upon his trade, all of the reports indicated that Simmons was healthy and looking forward to playing, but as the weeks stretched on, Simmons was repeatedly listed as out for “reconditioning.” Simmons later started experiencing back soreness which delayed his return further.
Still, in the middle of the Celtics series, all indications were that Simmons planned to play. He joined his teammates in practice, and we saw plenty of footage of Simmons making basketball moves on a court and even dunking the ball. Unfortunately, just before Game 4, it was reported that Simmons woke up and experienced back pain again, and his injury was apparently severe enough that he was not able to sit on the bench to see the Nets get swept out of the postseason.
Commentators like Stephen A. Smith and Shaquille O’Neal shredded Simmons for not at least attempting to play a few minutes. O’Neal dubbed it a “punk move,” while Smith argued earlier this week that the real reason Simmons never played this season was to protect his grievance claim against the 76ers.
Simmons had a response for his critics on Twitter. Simmons retweeted a video made by Doc Holliday, in which Holliday calls out all of the national media members who criticized Simmons for not returning to the court.
“Screamin’ A. Smith, Shaq, Barkley, Reggie Miller, Kendrick Perkins, Skip Bayless, Shannon Sharpe, and all those other national media personalities that made fun of that man. Shaq, [saying] he punked out. Stephen A. Smith talked about all other things about his mental capacity and all of that. Are y’all going to apologize to that man? Who literally has a hurt back.”
Smith responded to this point on Thursday, arguing that while he doesn’t deny that Simmons’ injury is real, he still could have played a limited role.
“There’s plenty of players who we’ve seen throughout NBA history that have ended up having to have a procedure on their back – but they played. And they played, and they got injured or whatever, they still tried to play through it, and then obviously they needed a surgical procedure in the offseason. They didn’t just sit on the bench for a year and not play one second of basketball while filing grievances to get back $20 million in salary.”
This post originally appeared on Nets Wire. Follow us on Facebook!