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February 15, 2017

Sixers' Brown on Simmons: 'I fully expect him to play this season'

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As it turns out, the main question regarding first-overall pick Ben Simmons, who broke his foot during the preseason, is not if he'll play this season, but when he'll play. At least that's what Sixers head coach Brett Brown said on Wednesday.

Brown, who earlier this season wrongly hinted that Simmons could return in January, told ESPN's Jeff Goodman that the team plans on seeing the 20-year-old forward out of LSU playing in games at some point this season, although he didn't provide any more information as to when that could be.

"Our plan is to still see him on the court, playing games," Brown told ESPN 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."

Both Brown and Simmons are in favor of the 6-foot-10, 240-pound point guard/forward making his NBA debut this season, sources told ESPN. However, the decision ultimately rests with the Sixers management.  []

Over the weekend, president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo told reporters that he was looking forward to seeing Simmons paired with Embiid, but didn't give seem too confident that would happen this season. Then, on Monday, Brown said he didn't foresee Simmons being ready to take part in five-on-five drill over the all-star break because he's "moving forward but at a very slow pace, our pace."

And as recently as Tuesday, there were reports suggesting that Simmons would miss the entire season, in part because of the number of games remaining after the break (26), but also because of some outside interests more concerned with their bottom line than what's best for the Sixers.

Here's more from Tom Moore of The Intelligencer [Warning: Tinfoil hats recommended]:

Conspiracy theorists wonder if Simmons’ off-court team, which includes Nike, would prefer he not play this season because he’d get more exposure in 2017-18 and could still be NBA Rookie of the Year. Unlike in Major League Baseball and the NHL, an NBA player loses his eligibility when he appears in his first game.

Either way, Simmons, who was the No. 1 pick in June’s draft after one year at Louisiana State, would be in line for a nine-figure contract extension in 2020 because injured players are paid the same as their healthy counterparts. Being hurt doesn’t affect that time frame.  []

More likely, however, the team's hesitation to give a definitive timeline for Simmons is due to a couple other, less nefarious motivations. 

First, by not setting a hard return date, they avoid putting any added pressure on the kid to heal at a certain speed. Everyone heals differently, and Simmons could be tempted to mislead doctors about his level of pain in order to get back on the court by the date provided by the team. 

Furthermore, after the number of times the Sixers had to update their timetable on Embiid's foot injury over the last few years -- not to mention the fact that Jahlil Okafor's meniscus took six months longer than expected to heal -- they don't stand to gain much by revealing a specific timeline for Simmons.

If those are the real reasons behind their handling of Simmons, they would be better served by just saying that upfront -- that seems to be somewhat of a theme with the Sixers recently.

Maybe, I don't know, something like:

Listen, we're not contending this year. Let's be honest, we're not even making the playoffs. So we've decided to be extra patient and do what's best for our prized draft pick's health; he needs to have the right amount of time to heal. And in order to not place any unnecessary pressure on him, we're not going to provide a specific timeline until he gets closer to a return. When we know for sure, we'll share that information immediately. We're as excited to see him on the court as you, the fans, but we want to make sure that once he's out there, he's able to stay out there. Thanks for understanding.

That's not so hard, is it?

And it certainly sounds better than what we've been getting for much of the season: radio silence.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin