Simmons, the league’s leader in theft, was sidelined in the lower back when the season was suspended on March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic. He is allowed to rehabilitate at the 76ers training center in Camden, New Jersey, but there seemed to be no guarantee that he would have been allowed to play in time for a playoff race.
“We took our time, we were methodical and thoughtful about his recovery and rehabilitation, just to make sure of it because we were in no rush,” 76ers general manager Elton Brand said on Tuesday. “It is difficult to speculate. He worked hard, and I know he would be close or ready. “
Simmons had missed his eighth consecutive game and was receiving daily treatment for his nervous breakdown at the end of the season. Brand, speaking to the media for the first time since the Sixers ‘last game, said he would not speculate on Simmons’ availability if the Sixers had still played in the playoffs. Simmons had not yet played 3 against 3 or 5 against 5 – and he would certainly be banned now – during his rehabilitation.
On March 11, the 76ers announced that the next Simmons evaluation would take place in early April.
“When I face him during his workouts and treatments and see him, I would be very encouraged,” said Brand. “Its ramp-up would be different. “
Simmons, 23, averaged 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 8.2 assists in 54 games.
He and other drug addicts, including All-Star Joel Embiid, are allowed to use the 76ers training center. Embiid was recovering from an operation with his left hand and had just returned after missing five games with a left shoulder sprained at the time of the save.
“He asks when his coach can come in,” said Brand. “I wouldn’t bet against him. It will be ready and ramped up. “
The Sixers have a skeleton in place when players need rehabilitation, usually a physical trainer or a strength trainer, and never more than six people at a time.
The Sixers entered this season with NBA championship expectations, but headed for closing at 39-26, placing sixth disappointing in the Eastern Conference. Coach Brett Brown’s job status was a daily hot topic in Philadelphia. Brown, whose contract ends in 2021-2022, could have saved time to repair the Sixers because of the shutdown.
Al Horford was a free agent bust from Boston and had lost his original job. Questions raised during the season may go unanswered for months, although a healthy Simmons and Embiid can serve as a course correction if the NBA resumes its season.
“It is very difficult to speculate on the changes that would be made if we did not have a season,” said Brand.
Brand said the Sixers had sent players all the necessary training equipment – even basketballs – and designed workouts to help them stay in shape during the break.
“I make sure their physical and mental health is in good shape,” said Brand. “It’s going to take a ramp up. I don’t know how long it’s going to be once it is deemed safe, but we’re definitely going to need some time to get back into the gym, to have time to get your legs back and catch the wind. “
Like most of the rest of the league, Brand was hopeful that the NBA season would resume and said the Sixers were ready to play against the Boston Celtics in a potential playoff game if the league chose to rank the playoffs current.
Brand also said the Sixers were in no rush to replace former senior vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley, who was hired last week as general manager of the Chicago Bulls.
Brand stayed busy, participating in the general manager’s weekly call with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and another call with a return to game committee. With the 76ers holding up to five choices in the 2020 project, Brand also met virtually prospects, their families and their agents.
There’s a Zoom call that Brand missed: the virtual happy hours organized by the players.
“For some reason, I am not invited to these,” he said with a laugh.