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October 21, 2021

Simmons not expected to play in Sixers' home opener after skipping workout due to back tightness

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Ben_Simmons_5_Hornets_Sixers_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons.

Ben Simmons is not expected to play in the Sixers' home opener vs. Brooklyn on Friday night, a source told PhillyVoice on Thursday afternoon, and the circumstances surrounding his absence are likely to be examined closely as the team and Simmons continue their extended standoff.

Simmons, as ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported first on Thursday, arrived at the Sixers' practice facility to take his COVID-19 test but did not participate in an individual workout he was scheduled to have at the team facility. All healthy players who did not participate in Wednesday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans were expected to undergo individual workouts with no team session for the day. The word "healthy" will now likely become a point of dispute between Simmons and the Sixers. 

A week and a half after returning to the team from exile, Simmons showed up to the Camden facility on Thursday and told team staffers he was dealing with back tightness, which was given "basic treatment" according to a source familiar. After the treatment, Simmons was cleared to practice by team doctors but left the facility before doing so.

One major point of contention at this juncture — multiple sources who spoke with PhillyVoice about Simmons' suspension from the team on Tuesday and Wednesday were prepared for Simmons to use some sort of health explanation to avoid playing in Friday's game against Brooklyn. According to a source familiar with the situation, Simmons' back tightness had not previously been mentioned as a problem or treated by team staffers over the last week and a half. Thursday was the first time it was brought up as an issue that would potentially prevent him from practicing or playing. When Simmons went through his return-to-play protocol last week, Simmons returned a clean physical and had not undergone any sort of additional treatment under the care of the team.

The Sixers are still of the mindset to try to re-integrate Simmons with their program and get him on board with this year's team. Sixers head coach Doc Rivers has been adamant about giving Simmons the opportunity to rejoin the team, noting that his job as the head coach is to try to bring everyone together.

"My job as a coach is to keep trying to get guys to buy in, be in, and unfortunately this is tougher," Rivers said after practice Tuesday. "He's a good player. He can help us. There's one thing I know about players, players will welcome anyone back who wants to be in. I also know that players will not welcome anyone who doesn't want to be in. And so when that time comes, I guarantee you it won't be a hard thing to do."

Philadelphia staffers were not necessarily expecting him to play against Brooklyn on Friday regardless, given the nature of his workouts to date, but having Simmons continue to ramp up physically and go through further sessions with staffers is something they feel is important prior to getting him back on an NBA floor. Outside of the team sessions where Simmons has been described as disengaged, Simmons' work in individual sessions have been described as, "going through the motions" up to this point in the process.

This story is developing.

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