Imagine the Wells Fargo Center “welcome” Ben Simmons would get tonight if he actually plays. Simmons surely can, too, and that’s probably one of the reasons he’s unlikely to play in the Sixers’ home opener against the Nets.

The Simmons saga continues with the star complaining of back tightness at the team facility on Thursday, and his boss, president Daryl Morey, digging in further during a radio appearance.

Simmons even got some advice from a fellow Philadelphia professional athlete. The key to Philly fans liking you, Ben? “Just play better, man,” the Eagles’ Jason Kelce said.

So will we see Simmons on the court tonight? Only he likely knows that, but we should have a better idea after Friday’s morning’s shootaround. But one thing is for sure: The drama doesn’t appear close to ending.

— Inquirer Sports Staff, @phillysport

Off the Dribble

Another day, another twist in the Ben Simmons saga. Thursday, after Simmons missed the Sixers’ season opener against the Pelicans, more news emerged. This time, Simmons was expected to arrive at the team’s practice facility for a workout in advance of Friday’s home game against the Nets. Simmons came to the facility but complained of back tightness. But even after being treated and cleared to take the court, Simmons left without participating in drills, a league source confirmed to The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey.

All this happened before Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey joined The Mike Missanelli Show. Once there, Morey, who is known to stir the pot, did what he is wont to do. Morey took a hard-line stance, mirroring the team’s approach with Simmons in recent days. He said the Sixers won’t trade Simmons unless they receive a difference-maker in return. He said the Sixers won’t complete any deal that negatively affects the roster during Joel Embiid’s prime. He even went as far as saying the Simmons saga could take four years — the remaining time in Simmons’ contract — to resolve.

After all this, Simmons still has not officially been ruled out of Friday’s game, so expect yet another twist.

Next: The Sixers play Brooklyn in their home opener at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Wells Fargo Center. The game will likely be played without two controversial figures, as Simmons and Kyrie Irving are not expected to play. Simmons is listed as doubtful, and Irving will not be with the team.

Early Birds

There are many questions surrounding this Eagles team, and you should ask us yours! Beat writers EJ Smith and Josh Tolentino will answer many of them on Sunday’s live pregame show on Gameday Central. You can send questions to them here.

We’ll get started here with this question: Can the Eagles bounce back with a win? According to our beat writers, this game might be close, but none of them actually picks the Eagles to win.

Yes, Eagles coaches have had some time to reflect during the mini-bye week. (Thankfully for them, Simmons is taking the brunt of Philly fan scorn these days, as Kelce couldn’t resist noting). Yes, the team could be close to getting Dallas Goedert back in action and perhaps Lane Johnson. But it’s been a difficult season thus far, even if the schedule is starting to get easier.

Next: Eagles at Raiders, 4:05 p.m. Sunday (Fox29)

Extra Innings

The regular season didn’t exactly work out for the Phillies, but the offseason is a chance for them to emerge as winners. Team president Dave Dombrowski has a lot of work ahead to improve a roster that finished 82-80 and missed the playoffs for a 10th straight season. So where does he start? In the estimation of The Inquirer’s Scott Lauber, Matt Breen and David Murphy, the Phillies’ three biggest needs are shortstop, a power-hitting outfielder, and a closer. Each writer took one need and proposed a solution that surely makes the Phillies better. If only it were this easy for Dombrowski.

On the Fly

The Flyers were expected to struggle to find the net at the start of the season with second-line center Kevin Hayes sidelined because of abdominal surgery and promising right winger Wade Allison recovering from a high ankle sprain. But through three games, they have done just the opposite, scoring 16 goals — their highest three-game total to begin a year since 1983-84 — to start out 2-0-1. Sam Carchidi writes the Flyers don’t have a whole lot of scoring depth but they do seem to have great chemistry, which we saw as they stuck up for each other in the first three games.

Next: The Flyers host the 3-0 Panthers at 7 p.m. Saturday (NBC Sports Philadelphia)

Fleet Street

Boom goes the dynamite — because nothing matters more than big plays in the biggest games. Rivalry matches especially rank high on this list. In European soccer, there might be no bigger rivalry than the one between Real Madrid and Barcelona. The cast of players might change, but the stage remains as compelling as ever, and definitely worth waking up early on the weekend to catch all the action. Set your alarm — then also don’t forget to check out other tasty rivalry games in Liga MX, the Premier League, or Brazil, home to the best-named rivalry game of all: the Flu-Fla derby.

Closer to home, check out the story of one dedicated soccer player’s journey from Australia to La Salle, and her meaningful experiences along the way.

Next: The Union play what might be their biggest game of the regular season when they host Nashville, the club that stands in their way of the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, at 7:30 Saturday night. Follow the action at GameDay Central.

Worth a look