On the Beat: Simmons Joins Team for Portions of Practice
CAMDEN, NJ - Apologies if the record seems broken. We know the tune has been played a couple times now in recent days. For the 76ers, however, it’s a sound worth hearing again.
Extending a trend that started last weekend, Ben Simmons has checked yet another new rehab activity off his list, as he continues to recover from the right foot fracture he endured on the final day of training camp.
After accompanying the Sixers on the road Friday in Boston and Sunday in Brooklyn, and appearing during warm-ups at both games, Simmons’ latest step forward came Tuesday, when his team regrouped in Camden, New Jersey.
Following practice, Brett Brown revealed Simmons was given the go-ahead to take part in on-court exercises featuring five-man player groupings.
Even though Simmons wasn’t asked to do much, Brown considered the development to be significant.
“To even see him go through 5-on-0 stuff, not a lot, not at 100 percent, but with us, in a 76er uniform, the gym got a lift,” Brown said. “You could feel it.”
According to Brown, Simmons did some “light” scripting, and passed the ball around to teammates. Throughout, the LSU product was interacting and communicating with his fellow Sixers.
“Albeit small, it’s the first time he’s done that,” said Brown, referring to the three months that have passed since Simmons’ injury. “It was great to have him.”
Joel Embiid agreed.
“I think he did a good job for someone who hasn’t been around,” said Embiid. “He knew the plays. I was happy to be on the floor with him.”
Having gone through two years of right foot rehab himself, Embiid is well aware of how uplifting an effect this phase of the rehab process can produce.
The big man said that on Tuesday, Simmons received reps at point guard, the position the Sixers have indicated Simmons will assume upon his eventual return.
“I’m excited to see how he develops into that,” Embiid said. “It was exciting when you got a player of that talent...who’s coming back hopefully soon. It’s great, and I can’t wait to play with him.”
Tuesday morning, Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo reiterated in an interview on 97.5 FM The Fanatic that the organization has yet to set a hard, fast date for Simmons’ debut.
What Colangelo did express confidence in was a belief that Simmons will offer the Sixers versatile possibilities.
“He’s just a basketball player,” said Colangelo, while joining The Fanatic Morning Show. “I don’t really care what position you put him at, or how you want to label him. He’s going to be a primary ball-handler that makes things happen on the basketball court. He’s going to make other players on the basketball court better, which is the part that I get so excited about. He’s an unselfish, pass-first player that does a lot of things.”
As for the extent to which Simmons exerted himself Tuesday, Brown estimated the Sixers had the 20-year old go at about an 80-percent intensity level.
“I think what everybody should just feel like today in our world, and certainly in the program’s world, the city’s world, it was a good day,” Brown said.
• Via a 10-day contract, the Sixers filled their 15th roster spot Tuesday with 6-foot-2 Chasson (pronounced CHASE-on) Randle. The 23-year old Rock Island, Illinois native tried out for the team Monday, after also having been invited to Philadelphia for a pre-draft workout in 2015.
Randle attended Stanford for four years, and, prior to Tuesday’s transaction, had been averaging just over 20 points per game for the Westchester Knicks of the NBA Development League.
“I felt like the gym was smarter today,” Brett Brown said with a smirk. “I think he’s a combo guard. It gives us a balanced practice. We’re very mindful of Gerald Henderson’s health, so at times we don’t sort of spend our money in practice and need another body there. I think there’s intellect, there’s a history, there’s a pedigree that we respect, and there’s a balance to our team that he allows us to fill.”
• Jahlil Okafor was held out of both Friday’s game at Boston and Sunday’s match-up at Brooklyn as a “Did Not Play - Coach’s Decision.” Tuesday, the coach responsible for these decisions had nothing but praise for the big man, and how he’s reacted to the latest iteration of the Sixers’ frontcourt experimentation.
“It’s not Jahlil’s fault he’s in this situation,” Brett Brown said. “I want to make sure that he is kept up, that he feels fantastic about himself. When I watch him on the bench, from a teammate perspective, I give him an A-plus and much respect. To learn that late [Monday] night, he walked into this building to get extra shots, I respect that. The roles that people accept versus the roles that people are given are kind of different. To date, I feel like he has handled it like an adult, like a pro. His spirit has not taken a dent.”
Brown suggested it might not be too long before Okafor begins to reclaim minutes. The Sixers have six back-to-back sets on the schedule prior to the All-Star break, and, given Joel Embiid’s workload restrictions, Okafor will likely be needed.
“I see a very clear path in the immediate future where we keep him alive, and his spirit up,” said Brown. “There’s light at the end of his tunnel because of that Joel back-to-back situation especially.”
• Joel Embiid was aware of the efforts of a fan who designed a character in his likeness on the WWE 2K17 video game.
"I thought it was great," the rookie said. "I love wrestling. When I was younger, and especially back home, I used to watch it a lot."
Embiid said his favorite WWE superstar is Triple-H (Hunter Hearst Helmsley), and that he used to wrestle with his siblings.