PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ben Simmons took a spot in the Philadelphia 76ers locker room instead of the starting lineup on opening night.
Simmons, the 2016 No. 1 overall draft pick, hoped to return at some point this season from a broken bone in his right foot and said he was never involved in any discussion about sitting out the season.
“I’ll come back when I’m ready,” Simmons said.
Simmons was expected to become the franchise player for a forlorn Sixers team coming off a 10-72 season. Simmons instead attended the season opener on Wednesday in street clothes and was set to watch the game against Oklahoma City from the locker room.
Simmons was injured last month during a training camp scrimmage. The Australian forward played at LSU last season.
“As soon as I get out there, I’d love to play,” he said.
Simmons’ injury was the latest blow to a franchise that has been beset in recent years by injuries to their players. Joel Embiid was set to make his regular-season debut two years after he was the No. 3 overall pick of the 2014 draft. Embiid sat out with right foot injuries and was expected to be limited to just 20 minutes against the Thunder.
Nerlens Noel underwent recent surgery on his left knee and will miss at least another month. Jahlil Okafor, last season’s leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, is coming off knee surgery and would be limited to 12 to 14 minutes a game.
Simmons said he would use the time off to work on his shooting.
“I’ll have my first game eventually,” he said. “My time will come.”
Simmons became an instant fan favorite before he ever played a game and expectations were high that he was the cornerstone player that could eventually help turn the Sixers into playoff contenders. Simmons, the 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward out of LSU, was Philadelphia’s first No. 1 pick since they drafted Allen Iverson in 1996.
Simmons, who grew up in Australia before moving to Florida for three years of high school at Montverde Academy, signed a $20 million sneaker deal with Nike before the draft.
“I’m just ready to get back,” he said. “I’m looking forward to just rehabbing every day and getting stronger. I want to be the best at what I’m doing now and that’s rehab. As long as I can do that, I’ll think I can be fine.”