Former Sixers guard Ben Simmons, who hasn’t played an NBA game since Philly lost a second-round Game 7 to the Atlanta Hawks last June, is set to return to the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday when the Brooklyn Nets come to town.

And although Simmons is still not in basketball condition after suffering a setback in his recovery from a back injury, Nets coach Steve Nash confirmed Tuesday that the 25-year-old, three-time All-Star will be in the building and sitting on the Nets bench in clear view of Sixers fans. Yes, the same Sixers fans who at one time were divided over the former No. 1 overall pick but have since come to more of a consensus following a months-long holdout and trade demand that erased any goodwill Simmons had left in this city.

Bringing Simmons back to his old stomping grounds — even though he isn’t playing — was a conscious decision, according to Nash, especially with the possibility of these two teams meeting again in the postseason. And Nash knows what to expect from the Philly faithful.

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“It’s great,” Nash said. “He’s on our team, he needs to be with his teammates and get the whole Philly thing out of the way a little bit. Maybe it never goes away, but the first time it’s always nice to kind of deal with it and move on.”
Nash said he would be “happy to talk” to Simmons about the reception he’s expected to get, but he said he is confident the 25-year-old former All-Star knows what’s coming.
“I don’t think he’s naive [enough] to think he’s not going to get some boos,” Nash said. “I hope he enjoys it. It’s a part of the game I miss.”

Simmons was traded to the Nets, along with Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and a pair of first-round picks, at the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline in exchange for James Harden and Paul Millsap. The Sixers have gone 5-1 in their six games since Harden made his debut with them — with the only loss coming on the road in Miami on the second night of a back-to-back and without Harden. The Sixers are 8-2 overall since the trade. The Nets, meanwhile, are 3-8.

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His appearance on the bench in Philly likely won’t be the only time the Sixers hear from Simmons this week, as Kyle Neubeck of reported on Tuesday that Simmons and his representation at Klutch Sports are expected to formally file a grievance this week over the fines levied against him as he remained away from the team for nearly the entire season before the trade. Simmons’ camp has maintained that the absence and subsequent trade request were because of his mental health and that he should not be subject to fines, which have reportedly reached into the tens of millions of dollars.

This was a step that has long been expected, but it certainly seems that this week is shaping up to be just the first round of Simmons vs. the Sixers.