Nets' Simmons hopeful for Fri. return vs. Hawks

by Gordon Dixon - Brooklyn's Ben Simmons will miss his fourth straight game due to lingering knee and calf injuries but hopes to return vs. the Hawks on Friday.

Nets' Ben Simmons to miss 4th straight, hopes to return Fri. 1:20 PM ET Nick FriedellESPN Staff Writer Close Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009. NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets swingman Ben Simmons said he's hopeful that he'll be able to return against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday as he continues to deal with ongoing issues with knee soreness and a calf strain. "I'm excited where I'm at right now," Simmons said after Tuesday's practice. "So I'm looking for Friday to get back on the court." Simmons will miss his fourth consecutive game -- and ninth overall -- when the Nets play the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. He believes that the accumulation of games, combined with the amount of minutes he's been playing, had a role in this latest setback. "It's a lot of load for coming back from a back injury and then also the knee," Simmons said. "So I'm glad I had this time to build some muscle around it and we'll work on it." Simmons said he felt some discomfort in his calf during a 111-97 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Nov. 27 and then again during a 109-102 win over the Orlando Magic the following night. He asked to come out of the game vs. Orlando in the first half and hasn't returned to the floor since. He said that he will be more cautious about his minutes moving forward, which could impact whether he plays both ends of upcoming back-to-backs. "I think we're definitely going to look at it a lot different," Simmons said. "I don't know if it's measuring minutes, maybe not back-to-backs, whatever it is. I think that's going to be a joint thing with the training staff and myself, and letting them know how I'm feeling." Simmons said the continued knee and calf soreness is likely related to the back surgery he had over the summer. "I think it's all related," Simmons said. "When you start talking about back injuries, you start using different muscles, you want to load and lean or whatever it is. I think they all relate in some aspect." Nets swingman Yuta Watanabe is hopeful to return this weekend as he continues to deal with a right hamstring strain. Watanabe has been out since scoring 16 points in a 127-115 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 20. "I'm getting better," Watanabe said. "My hamstring is feeling good. "So hopefully I can play this weekend."