FOR THE NINTH TIME in the past 10 games, the answer to the most-asked question in Philadelphia sports was no.

Joel Embiid did not play against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday and will not make the trip to Orlando to face the Magic on Thursday.

Though the 7-2 center has been working out and will continue to do so during his time away from the team, coach Brett Brown again said the team is being cautious with the bone bruise in his left knee Embiid suffered during an awkward fall Jan. 20 against Portland. Though Embiid did return in that game for a bit and played a week later against the Houston Rockets, he has spent most of his time since not dressing for games.

"We got back from Detroit really late two nights ago and got up the next day and I had Joel and Ben (Simmons) in my office for 45 minutes or so, just talking with them about lots," Brown said on Wednesday. Twenty minutes after that, went out on the court and worked Joel out. He's coming along fine. I think that nobody needs to worry that there's anything deeper than that. We're just moving slowly and trying to move wisely, but there's no conspiracy theory going on. I believe that we're going to see him not too far away."

As for Simmons, Brown still wouldn't put a timetable on when the No. 1 pick out of LSU might make his NBA debut. After breaking a bone in his right foot on the final day of training camp last fall, Simmons is progressing, Brown said, but not yet playing five-on-five. Brown added that Simmons would need about five of those sessions before he could deem him ready for play.

"We don't really have a date (for Simmons' return)," Brown said. "It's moving forward and I understand fans, especially, and you guys doing your job would like to have some clarity on time, but we can't give it, it's just not there. He's moving along. In regards to when he will play, we do not know that. When we do we will certainly share that with people."

Trade rumors

It is that time of the year when rumors of trade possibilities swirl like snowflakes in a blizzard. The main ones surrounding the Sixers involve center Jahlil Okafor, who supposedly is drawing interest from the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Pelicans.

While dealing with those rumors are undoubtedly unsettling for a player, particulary one as young as the 21-year-old Okafor, his coach doesn't let the elephant sit quietly in the room.

Asked whether he has spoken to Okafor about all the trade rumors, Brown replied: "All the time. All the time. Just like I'm talking to you know and I have no problem doing it. It's how I feel most comfortable. It cleanses myself and I feel like we can talk where it's real. I will help him. I'm going to coach him until somebody tells me I'm not.

"And if he's not rebounding, he'll hear about it. And if he's not running the floor, he'll hear about it. If he's doing a hell of a job getting deep catches on post touches, he'll be praised for it. That's all I know and that's the deal.

"Chicago Bulls stuff has come up, New Orleans. It's just part of our world. You can make light of it or admit that some of it is true. But I coach him until somebody tells me I'm not."

Grand, old place

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich knows the history of the game as well as he knows how to coach it. That's why on Wednesday morning, he loaded his veteran Spurs team onto a bus and took them to the University of Penn for a shootaround at the legendary Palestra.

"We don't shoot around a whole lot, but I wasn't going to miss a chance to go to the Palestra, because it's like a real gym," Popovich said. "Growing up, those are the kinds of gyms you love, like Butler Fieldhouse in Indiana. Those are the kinds of places that make you fall in love with the game. The acoustics are good. Just the whole scene. I wanted the players to see that. They don't get to see that very often."

cooneyb@phillynews.com

@BobCooney76

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