STOCKTON, NJ - SEPTEMBER 27: Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers puts his shoes on before practice at Stockton University on September 27, 2016 in Camden, New Jersey.
Jesse D. Garrabrant NBAE via Getty Images

On the Beat: Simmons Takes "Significant" Steps

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

CAMDEN, NJ - In senses both literal and figurative, Ben Simmons took important steps Tuesday.

Earlier that morning at the 76ers’ training complex, the number one pick from this year’s draft shot free throws without the aid of a walking boot - a first since he fractured his right foot September 30th, the final day of training camp. 

“That is significant,” Brett Brown stated with matter-of-fact emphasis. 

Brown divulged the news - if not the most encouraging, at the very least the most ear opening - towards the tail end of his almost 15-minute long media availability that followed practice. 

The picture the head coach proceeded to paint was a promising one. 

“He walked out on the court in sneakers,” described Brown, “and he shot free throws. So, that is significant to me. You’re like, I got yah. Here we go.”

Putting up foul shots without the extra support of a walking boot wasn’t the only noteworthy accomplishment for Simmons Tuesday. He also made strides in respect to his mental reps as well. 

Since Simmons began rehabbing in earnest roughly two months ago, Brown has conducted comprehensive one-on-one tutoring sessions with the LSU product in his office in Camden. In addition to reviewing video footage with Simmons, Brown also peppers Simmons with questions. 

Tuesday, Brown gave the rookie his first formal positional exam. Pen and paper were required.

“We took him through, Here, you got the ball, you’re the point guard,” said Brown. “What do you see? What do you do? What do I call this? What are the reads? What can he do? 

“We went through that for a half an hour [Tuesday] morning.”

Brown sounded pleased with the 20-year old’s performance.  

“From a non-medical standpoint and just his coach, the evolution that he and I have been able to have in a classroom and on a court, in talking things through over the past few months, is fantastic,” Brown said. 

To-date, walking boot or not, Simmons’ work on a basketball court, according to Brown, has been limited to spot shooting from various floor spots. Currently, when at the Sixers’ facility, the boot comes off. When Simmons leaves, it goes back on.

Even though, in the grand scheme of things, analyzing the state of a piece of medical foot apparel might seem like minutiae, reducing dependency on such a device can mean a great deal to a recuperating player. Just ask Joel Embiid, who, over the last two years, had his fair share of experience marking off minor rehab milestones. 

“Definitely,” he said Tuesday. “I asked [Simmons] the first thing when I saw it, I was like, How do you feel? You could see that smile on his face.” 

Embiid reflected on his own situation for context.

“That’s how it was,” said Embiid, now finally getting to enjoy his debut campaign on the heels of undergoing right foot surgeries in 2014 and 2015. “Now, you can get back on the court, you can start doing more stuff, you can start shooting. It just frees you up, and I’m sure he’s happy about it.

“I got better. I’m sure he’s going to get better, too.”

Up until recently, Simmons, on top of the walking boot, needed to rely on a manual scooter to get himself around, so that he could avoid bearing weight on his foot. 

“There was nothing really that he’s wheeling,” Brown said Tuesday. “He walked across and sat in my office, and I just watched him shoot free throws. You see him in a film session. He’s moving. We’re all going to be just extremely careful - everybody needs to hear that, and we know that. We’re going to be extremely careful with how his progression into the team goes.”

Regardless of how small or big, one thing was certain Tuesday - there was at least progress worth talking about.