It appears the chances of seeing Ben Simmons in a 76ers uniform this season are getting slimmer and slimmer.
Last week, coach Brett Brown said that for Simmons to be ready for game activity, the first overall pick of the 2016 draft out of LSU would have to play more than five five-on-five games in practice. Simmons has not played since suffering a foot fracture Sept. 30, the last day of training camp. Asked before Monday's game against the Hornets whether Simmons would start playing some more and get to the five-on-five area, Brown didn't hesitate with his answer.
"I don't think so," he said. "I feel like he's moving forward, but to say that we believe he's going to be ready for five-on-five during the All-Star break would be misleading. I don't see that.
"He is moving forward, but it's at a very slow pace, our pace. I think when we all get back and he's around the team again, because it's not an ideal situation to manufacture five-on-five during a break, then we can better craft and construct to allow the return to play to be more responsible."
Following Wednesday's game in Boston, the Sixers won't play again until Feb. 24. That will leave them with 26 games to play this season, including a West Coast trip and another five-game stretch away from home. It would be hard to imagine Simmons getting in any practice when the team is on the road, so the time for him to make his debut this season is shrinking rather quickly.
The thoughts/hopes of many were that Simmons would be able to make an appearance at some point after the break. But the 6-10 passing wizard hasn't been traveling with the team lately in what has been a heavy travel month, and if his coach doesn't want him playing with below-NBA talent, the possibility of him playing this season seems to be slight, at best.
Asked last week whether he would like to see Joel Embiid and Simmons on the floor together this season, president Bryan Colangelo quickly said yes, that evaluating the cornerstones together to see what sort of pieces the team should surround them with was paramount.
Embiid will miss the last game before the All-Star break and not participate in any of the weekend activities in New Orleans. After Wednesday, the 7-2 center will have missed 11 consecutive games and 14 out of 15 as he rests the bone bruise and minor meniscus tear in his left knee.
Okafor saga continues
As the 76ers concluded their shootaround Monday morning, the absences seemed to outweigh those who were present.
Joel Embiid stayed back in Philadelphia to rest his left knee. Jahlil Okafor stayed behind, as a trade appears imminent.
"Strangely, it isn't (odd)," coach Brett Brown said of the Okafor situation. "It's honest with everybody in front of me. Once we have that, all of us can talk like we're talking. Jahlil Okafor's situation is transparent. He's in the middle of being discussed in trade scenarios and so I felt that it complicates things to play him. Now this is continuing on, and that's the reason he isn't here. And we all know that sometimes things don't happen. To talk to him, selfishly, is comfortable because it is all true."
So what if a trade doesn't happen? What if president Bryan Colangelo doesn't get an offer he deems worthy of the third overall pick in 2015? Can Okafor come back and play for this team?
"Absolutely," said Brown, "and I'm able to do that mostly because of Jahlil. He'll come back in and be welcomed with open arms by teammates that like him and respect him and they are friends. He'll come back into a coaching staff that likes him and respects him, because we care for him. He still is ours until somebody tells us he isn't."
So for the time being, it's just a team moving forward without a couple of its better players, a situation with which this organization has gotten way too familiar over the past four seasons.
"Rumors have been going on for a while now, and they decided to sit him now," said Gerald Henderson, like Okafor, a Duke product. "It's different. I haven't really seen it done like that. But there's not really anything, as a player, that you can worry about. It's our job to go out there and play. Jah's my friend, so I hate to see that he is not on the court with us. Hopefully, it means for him that he'll be moving to a better situation."