Sit him down. Keep him on the bench. Tie him to the bench and place his feet atop a pair of Royal Hotel goose-down pillows. Assign an assistant coach to do nothing but monitor Ben Simmons and make sure he stays tied to the bench with his feet atop those pillows. Stuff him in an 8-foot-tall cardboard box, line it with bubble wrap, and pour Styrofoam peanuts into it to make sure his surroundings are cushioning his right foot - and the rest of his body, for that matter - and keeping him safe.
Now that we know that Simmons' right fifth metatarsal bone - the bone that he broke on Sept. 30, the injury that has kept him from playing in a single regular-season game for the 76ers - is still not fully healed, the Sixers' next course of action is clear: stop the obfuscation and subterfuge. Call a news conference. And without equivocation, without putting coach Brett Brown in that familiar position - forcing him to say something that eventually could come back to compromise his integrity - announce that Simmons will not play this season.
It would be the best thing, for both the Sixers and Simmons. Let's start with the franchise and its power people: principal owner Josh Harris, president Bryan Colangelo, chief executive officer Scott O'Neil. For whatever reason - a desire to keep hopes and ticket sales as high as possible, a misunderstanding of a sports market that is forever bubbling and seething over its teams' fortunes and demands openness and honesty from its athletes and coaches and executives, pure self-interest - the Sixers have created for themselves a crisis of trust. No one believes them anymore. Joel Embiid is fine. Joel Embiid has a bone bruise. Joel Embiid won't play tomorrow night. Oh, yes, about that torn meniscus. We did know about that, but it wasn't a big deal. And of course, we expect Ben to play this season. Why wouldn't we?
They ricochet from closed-mouthed to cryptic, telling Brown only what he needs to know so that he can present a passionate and helpful voice to the public. If Colangelo thought that the same smaller-market measures that he used to control his message in Phoenix and Toronto would work here, he should have learned a lesson from Sam Hinkie's fall. Sure, Hinkie wouldn't hop on a talk-radio show to spit out a few cliches for the sake of satisfying the masses - and, most of all, the hosts. But at least he had the forthrightness to make his intentions, the direction he was taking the Sixers, plain from the beginning. At least he had the discipline to keep his player personnel maneuvering in the shadows so that he wouldn't handicap himself when it was time to strike a trade.
Colangelo has been selectively transparent, a sign that he's insecure about how he does his job, and when he has spoken and acted frankly, he's made things harder on himself.
He couldn't wait last summer to tell everyone that he was set on achieving "roster balance" by trading Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, or both. And this recent fiasco of sending Okafor home in anticipation of a trade only to have him rejoin the team after two games had even Okafor's teammates snickering and shaking their heads at a veteran GM's amateurish attempt to ignite a bidding war for a player the entire NBA knows to be limited.
What Colangelo and the Sixers' leadership need most is to rebuild some credibility with their followers and fans. To that end, they should acknowledge that shoehorning Simmons into the lineup this season could do more harm than good. A playoff berth is unrealistic: They're 51/2 games out of the Eastern Conference's eighth seed and would have to leapfrog five teams in the standings. If, as Colangelo said in a statement Thursday, "Ben's long-term health remains our primary concern," there ought to be no rush for the Sixers to suit him up this season - and no more public suggestions that it is one of their primary objectives. They should do everything they can to start fresh in 2017-18 with Embiid and Simmons.
Now, Simmons. He will undergo a CT scan, according to Colangelo, next Thursday, but even if his foot were to heal before the season's end, it would only just have healed. Why risk damaging it further? On Jan. 16 - exactly one week before he underwent the foot scan that showed his foot wasn't completely healed - Simmons sat courtside at the Pavilion to watch Villanova's 76-46 victory over Seton Hall. (When asked if he was still on track to play in January, he said, "I'm not doing any media.")
In action on a basketball court, in his jersey and shorts, moving with the ball, Simmons even at 20 seems a mature man. But that night, he was with a few of his friends, and they looked every bit of 20 - hanging out, wearing hoodies, fiddling with their phones - and he did, too. It was a reminder of how young he really is, how far he has yet to go in basketball and in life, and that he can afford to be patient to make certain he gets as healthy as possible.
So he should be that patient. He should sit out the rest of this season. It would be one more disappointment in a long succession of them for the Sixers. It would be a hard choice to make. But it would be the right one, the honest one.