DETROIT — Ben Simmons will not join the 76ers in Detroit for their preseason finale against the Pistons, according to a team official. He is listed as out (reconditioning) on the official injury report.
Following a nearly two-week holdout over a trade demand, Simmons arrived in Philadelphia Monday and has been taking steps toward rejoining the Sixers such as COVID-19 testing, taking a physical and meeting with Sixers officials. Provided he clears the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, Friday was the soonest Simmons could partake in team activities.
Joel Embiid (rest) was also added to the lengthy list of Sixers who did not travel to Detroit for their preseason finale Friday against the Pistons. Coach Doc Rivers said following the shootaround that Embiid’s absence for this game was scheduled before the start of training camp.
The star center last played an efficient eight minutes in Monday’s 115-104 exhibition game victory against the Brooklyn Nets, scoring 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including a thunderous dunk and an and-1 finish that ended with Embiid hitting the deck. After Embiid’s first-half action, Rivers did not reinsert the big man into the game.
“I didn’t like the game, honestly,” Rivers said after the game. “I thought that was enough [for Embiid]. ... I said, ‘We’re good.’ I thought he played great, looked great. And I just thought, with the way [Sunday’s] practice went and then guys were hitting the floor early in the game [Monday], I’m thinking, ‘I’m getting Joel off the floor.’ That is all that was about.”
Starter Tobias Harris (knee soreness), rotation players Matisse Thybulle (shoulder soreness) and Shake Milton (sprained ankle) and two-way player Grant Riller (knee surgery) also did not make the trip to Detroit. Rivers said he hoped Harris, Thybulle and Milton can return to practice Sunday.
Drummond returns to Detroit
When Rivers announced Andre Drummond as part of the Sixers’ starting lineup against the Pistons, the coach referred to Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena as “The House that Drummond built.”
It was an appropriate distinction for Drummond, who spent parts of his first eight NBA seasons with the Pistons. That’s where he evolved from a teenage lottery pick into a two-time All-Star, four-time NBA rebounding leader and max-contract player.
“I pretty much grew up here,” Drummond said following the shootaround. “When people ask me, I say I’m from here, as well. The city’s done so much for me.”
The Pistons sent Drummond to Cleveland at the 2020 trade deadline. The Cavaliers then bought him out in 2021, prompting him to sign with the Lakers for the stretch run and postseason.
Drummond then signed a veteran-minimum contract with the Sixers this past offseason to join up with Rivers, who he has known since he was a teenager because Rivers’ adopted son, Adam Jones, played at the same Connecticut prep school as Drummond. Rivers continues to praise the way Drummond has accepted his role with the Sixers, gobbling up minutes, rebounds and inside buckets as Embiid’s backup and as a spot starter when Embiid has rested.
“He’s been one of those guys that the guys love,” Rivers said. “He’s been a great light. I’m pushing him. When I made the call, I told him, ‘I’m not gonna just let you be you. That’s part of what I have to do.’ And he’s allowed it.”
Starter Danny Green (rest) also will not play Friday, but chose to travel with the team to Detroit to be around the Sixers’ younger players that should see plenty of game action against the Pistons.
For Rivers, that made Green “Coach Danny” during the shootaround.
“That’s good for him,” Rivers said. “I think he’s gonna be a coach, so I want him being involved, and that’s what we tell him.”
The 34-year-old Green has plenty of wisdom to impart whether he is on the floor or not. He became a three-time NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers by carving out a role as a quintessential 3-and-D player. He averaged 9.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals last season with the Sixers, but his playoff run was cut short by a calf injury.
Niang getting comfortable
A silver lining of Harris being out for the bulk of the preseason is that newcomer Georges Niang has gotten a chance to work with multiple teammates and lineups. He was set to start again on Friday alongside Tyrese Maxey, Seth Curry, Furkan Korkmaz and Drummond.
When asked how much more comfortable he feels compared to the first day of training camp less than three weeks ago, Niang said it’s “night and day.”
“I think I know everybody’s name at this point,” Niang quipped. “That’s huge for me. These guys have done a great job of making me feel comfortable. I’ve gotten really acclimated with the system. Doc’s done a great job of really showing me how things roll around here and where I can be effective and where I can help, so it’s been great.
“In two weeks, I’ve definitely learned a lot.”
Rivers has called Niang a “sneaky” pickup for the Sixers because of his shooting, floor-spacing and versatility to play power forward and some small-ball center. Tips Niang said he has picked up from teammates thus far include where Embiid likes guys to cut when he has the ball in certain positions on the court, and how he should run the floor when Maxey is pushing the ball.