Ben Simmons’ declaration has to be pleasing to the 76ers.

“I’m feeling better than I was when I started this season,” Simmons said Thursday in a Zoom call with the media.

Simmons suffered a pinched nerve in his lower back on Feb. 22 in Milwaukee and missed the eight games before the NBA shutdown in mid-March. He started his rehabilitation a few days after the Bucks game.

The chiseled 6-foot-10, 240-pound guard said he’s added strength and muscle to his frame. He also feels more explosive.

“I was able to get Pilates in almost every day, lifting weights, taking care of my body, getting back to 100 percent,” Simmons said. “So, I’ve just been trying to go overboard with that and be prepared to be down there [in Orlando] and play.”

The two-time All-Star said he’s in much more control on the floor, knowing what his body can do.

“Overall, I feel like I’m back to 100 percent,” Simmons said. “It’s a good feeling.”

Ben Simmons, shown against the Clippers back on Feb. 11, says he feels back to 100 percent after suffering a lower-back injury a few weeks before the NBA's coronavirus shutdown.
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Ben Simmons, shown against the Clippers back on Feb. 11, says he feels back to 100 percent after suffering a lower-back injury a few weeks before the NBA's coronavirus shutdown.

Thursday marked Simmons’ first local media availability since his pregame press conference on March 11, hours before the shutdown.

It was unclear then whether he would have been able to play in the playoffs had the season progressed as planned.

Simmons kind of sidestepped that question on Thursday.

“No idea,” he said. “I’d be able to tell you if we got there, but I was at a point where I was feeling comfortable with getting back on the floor. But it also was a different type of pace to a workout. So, it’s really hard to judge.

“But I felt very good. I felt like I was ready. But this extra window of time, it’s a blessing that comes with everything going on.”

Simmons added that he’s using the extra time to his full advantage to get back on the court. “So I’m ready to go,” he said.

Simmons was averaging the fifth-most assists in the NBA before the season was suspended.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Simmons was averaging the fifth-most assists in the NBA before the season was suspended.

As seen in recent videos of him making spectacular dunks in Los Angeles, Simmons looks ready for the NBA restart at Walt Disney World. The Sixers will travel to Disney’s “bubble” site on July 9 and participate in training until July 29. The team’s eight-game regular season opens on Aug. 1 against the Indiana Pacers.

Simmons averaged 16.7 points, 8.2 assists (fifth in the NBA), and 7.8 rebounds in 54 games. A candidate for defensive player of the year, he also led the league with 2.1 steals per game.

The Sixers went 4-4 with Simmons sidelined, but they also underachieved when he played.

They’re sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 39-26 record heading into the restart, despite being among the preseason favorites to win the NBA title.

That led to the Sixers being labeled as this season’s biggest underachiever.

“We are not worried about what other people think,” Simmons said. “We got to get ready. We got to focus on ourselves and compete. We’ve beaten the best teams in the league.”

The Sixers posted statement victories at home over the Eastern Conference-leading Bucks and Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers this season. They’ve also recorded at least one victory against the top five teams in each conference.

“So, we are ready to compete,” Simmons said. “We are a young team right now. So, we are looking forward to this opportunity ... and going all the way. So, we are not going to go out there doubting ourselves. We know what we are in for.”