May 12, 2017
So far, all we have to go on when judging Ben Simmons' ability to play in the NBA is a handful of summer league games from last year, before the 2016 first-overall pick broke his foot just before the start of the preseason.
Simmons was supposed to be back at some point this season, but a follow-up procedure to help his surgically-repaired foot caused him to miss the entire year.
And on Friday, Sixers head coach Brett Brown joined Anthony Gargano and Eytan Shander on the 97.5 The Fanatic Morning Show to talk about the draft lottery, how he see the team building for the future and, of course, when we might see Simmons (as well as center Joel Embiid, who underwent surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus) back on the court.
Unfortunately for fans, the wait may be a little longer than they had hoped, according to Brown.
"I don't think we've announced [anything official], but I think everybody should bunker in to hear that news [that Simmons and Embiid won't play in summer league]. I don't think anything's become official," Brown said. "But we're fine, with the work these guys are putting in. People could walk into our gym even now and see the attendance of our players.
"I've lived it, I've seen it first-hand in 2002 with the Spurs when we opened our new facility, that Field of Dreams stuff, 'If you build it they will come,' and come they have. The building is very well-attended. People are loving coming to our new facility to put in work. I think we'll see the rewards of our new practice facility be shown through more individual improvement.
"Summer league or not [for Simmons and Embiid], I think people should feel very proud and confident that the body of work that is being put in over the summer and the offseason is going to be very strong."
If you've been following Simmons on Instagram, you've seen evidence of that work.
Based on that, it appears the decision to keep him out of summer league wouldn't necessarily signal an injury concern, but rather a safe play by a team that needs to do whatever it can to minimize injury risks.
And when Brown says people should feel confident about the direction in which this team is heading, he wasn't just talking about fans. He also believes this is going to be the season where the Sixers finally prove themselves as a tempting destination for future free agents.
"People think they know, they think we or the league saw enough of Joel. Nobody's really seen Ben [Simmons], Dario [Saric] has only played one year, no one really knows what's going to happen in the draft," Brown said. "So there are so many uncertainties that big free agents — and let's talk about the varsity game, the big free agents — there's not enough at the moment for somebody to look at it and feel 100 percent certain.
"I think everybody looks at us and sees what we all feel: We are so well-positioned to jump into [free agency] in a big way. I think that we're going to have to earn our stripes this year on the court to [lure future free agents], and I believe we're going to do it. And I feel very strongly about that."
First, before hitting the court or earning those stripes, the Sixers will add quite a few new players at next month's NBA Draft, and they'll know more about where they'll be picking after Tuesday night's lottery.
"We've gone through this now four years in a row," Brown said about the lead-up to the lottery. "And again, it's ping-pong ball night. Joel's going to New York and it'll play out as it plays out. But in some ways, our fate is determined a little bit. I still like what's happened no matter what's going on.
"But we're gonna learn a lot more about where we fit at 8:30 [p.m.] or whenever it is on Tuesday night. If we can get to the commercial, we're in the top three."
You can listen to the full interview, here.
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