The Philadelphia 76ers have managed to completely turn around their franchise's trajectory this season without even a minute's contribution from the No. 1 overall pick, as the specter of Ben Simmons' eventual return still shimmers in the distance.
Following a recent trend for Sixers lottery picks, a preseason foot fracture has delayed Simmmons' NBA debut, and as he continues to rehab from surgery two-thirds of the way through what was supposed to be his rookie year, it's unclear if he'll suit up at all this season. Head coach Brett Brown maintains that's still his expectation, though Simmons' timeline remains hazy.
"Our plan is to still see him on the court, playing games," Brown told ESPN's Jeff Goodman on Wednesday. "We just don't know when.
"I fully expect him to play this season. He thinks that, and he's motivated to play."
Brown said both he and Simmons want the rookie to play, but the decision will ultimately be left to the team's front office. Simmons has reportedly been working out and running 5-on-0 drills, but hasn't yet been cleared for contact.
"I think he looks good - even though it's 5-on-0," Brown said. "He's got a great spirit, attitude. The plan is to heal him up, treat him with complete care and then deliver him to the court."
Simmons, a 20-year-old who packs point guard skills in a power forward's body, averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and two steals in his lone season at LSU before the Sixers drafted him first overall last summer. He largely struggled in Summer League action, particularly with turnovers, but also showed flashes of his incredible playmaking ability before suffering the injury.