Even though the NBA has a plan to restart its season, we are still living in uncertain times. The spike in COVID-19 cases in Florida, where the NBA is to restart its season, is a sobering reminder that nobody can say for certain what will occur in the sports world, or for that matter, any place.

Still, if the NBA restarts, the 76ers, with an in-shape Joel Embiid and a healthy Ben Simmons, should be a team of considerable interest.

While there are no recent medical reports, the video that Simmons’ trainer Chris Johnson posted showed that at the least, the two-time all-star was moving very well.

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— Marc Narducci (offthedribble@inquirer.com)

Is Ben Simmons healthy? A new Instagram video suggests he's ready for the NBA's restart.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Is Ben Simmons healthy? A new Instagram video suggests he's ready for the NBA's restart.

Simmons showing some bounce

Ben Simmons last played a full NBA game right before the All-Star break, Feb. 11, when he had a triple double - 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a 110-103 win over the visiting Los Angeles Clippers.

He then suffered a back injury, missed the Sixers’ first game back after the break, then returned in a game at Milwaukee but played just 4 minutes and 44 seconds before leaving with a nerve impingement in his lower back during a 119-98 loss.

After that, Simmons missed the final eight games before the season was suspended on March 11.

In those videos that Johnson posted, Simmons was moving freely and dunking with authority. Of course videos may not tell the entire story. Remember the previous videos of Simmons working on long-range shooting over the summer?

We know how that has turned out. This year he is 2 for 6 from beyond the arc. He has attempted 617 shots and just 12 of them are 15 feet or beyond, according to NBA.com stats.

Yet, if he is indeed ready to return, the question is could he pick up where he left off right before the All-Star break? In the 15 games before the break, Simmons averaged 21.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 3.9 turnovers in 38.4 minutes. He shot 63% from the field, and more importantly 69.4% from the foul line. Even though he is a 59.4% career free throw shooter, he is hitting 62.7 percent this season. Improved free throw shooting will give Simmons the confidence to go to the basket more and get to the free throw line, especially late in games.

While it would be a surprise if he started freely attempting threes, Simmons can help in so many other aspects of the game, especially on the defensive end, where he could be a first-team all-defense selection.

If he can indeed pick up where he left off when the NBA is scheduled to return July 30, it could be among the bigger developments when the teams begin play in Orlando.

Torrel Harris helped his son, Tobias, sign the richest contract in Sixers history.
Courtesy of Torrel Harris
Torrel Harris helped his son, Tobias, sign the richest contract in Sixers history.

Starting Five

Keith Pompey profiles Torrel Harris, the father and agent of Sixers forward Tobias Harris, who has been highly successful on several fronts.

Here are among the key guidelines the NBA issued for the 22 teams that will be competing in Orlando.

Center Christ Koumadje of the Sixers’ G League affiliate the Delaware Blue Coats, was named defensive player of the year in the G League.

A report by the National Transportation Safety Board says the pilot in the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others, may have been disoriented in the fog. The Associated Press has the story.

Pete Maravich during his days with the New Orleans Jazz.
File
Pete Maravich during his days with the New Orleans Jazz.

Remembering Pistol Pete

One of the most exciting players ever, first in college and then the NBA, Pistol Pete Pete Maravich was born on this day, June 22, 1947. Maravich died at the age of 40 in 1988.

He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987 and among those inducted the same year were Walt Frazier and Rick Barry.

What many may not know is that Maravich’s final game was played against the Sixers. That was Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, when the Sixers clinched the series over the Boston Celtics with a 105-94 win at the Boston Garden.

In that game Maravich had four points, hitting 2 of 8 shots in 17 minutes.

During his career Maravich, one of the sport’s most entertaining players ever, was a five-time All-Star, twice with the Atlanta Hawks and three times with the New Orleans Jazz.

He was a three-time first-team all-American at LSU, where he averaged an incredible 44.2 points in 83 career games.


Passing the Rock

Question: How long will it take the players to get into game shape? - from Tadd Kozeniewski on Facebook.

Answer: Thanks for the question Tadd. Many of the players have been back in the gym, either at their team facilities or like Ben Simmons, who has been in Los Angeles, working out on their own. If the NBA goes with its plan to begin the eight regular season games on July 30, the teams will have ample time, even with some much time off, to get back into shape. Teams will begin training camps next week and either depart for Orlando on July 7, 8 or 9. That means they will have a month before their first game. Yes, there is a lot of rust to shake off, and maybe the first few games will show that, but certainly by the time the playoffs approach, all teams should be in good shape.