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January 02, 2017

No strangers to missing time, Embiid and Noel helping Simmons’ rehab off the court

Sixers NBA

Brett Brown hadn’t seen the picture of his players hanging out on New Year’s Eve (“I’m a social misfit, I live in my world” were his exact words) but it certainly brought a smile to his face when a reporter pulled it up after the Sixers’ practice on Tuesday in Camden:

“That’s fantastic,” Brown said with a huge smile. “You know I like stuff like that.”

He continued with an honest appraisal of his franchise’s situation: It has been difficult to build a lasting culture because with the type of roster upheaval the Sixers have dealt with, nobody was honestly around for that long.

“You know how important it is to all of us to grow a continuity, a family,” Brown said. “And when you have people in and out and people’s futures are uncertain, words end up [being] cheap. We do it [well] because I think we put in real time here and we work and they feel like they’re getting better. To grow that type of thing off the floor is the holy grail.”

Of the five players in the picture — Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, T.J. McConnell, Nik Stauskas and Nerlens Noel — Simmons is probably the most notable because he isn’t currently playing. He’s around the team more (STORY HERE) now when they’re home, but last June’s No. 1 overall pick still isn’t practicing. 

Of course, two other people in the photograph know Simmons’ situation all too well.

“That’s something I feel like Ben is going to appreciate it a lot because I was in that type of situation,” Embiid said. “When I was by myself, I kind of felt left alone. And when I had guys around me, it just made me feel better.”

And who in particular made Embiid feel better during his (planned) redshirt year?

“Yeah, Nerlens when I got to Philly showed me around,” Embiid said. “My first year when I was traveling on the road, I was always with him… It was mainly Nerlens, we’ve been close since I got to Philly.”

That helps explain Embiid’s “best friend” comments from a few weeks ago. Noel hasn’t been in the news for many team-building reasons over the past month, but he also sat his first season in Philly out. Of course, in year one of The Process, the Sixers had yet to fully transition to a younger team.

“That was a different team, I’m not going to lie, but I like those guys regardless,” Noel said with a smile. “Them guys were great guys, but they were a little older than me.”

(Note: Noel’s comments don’t make the Sixers’ big man situation any less awkward/potentially detrimental to team morale, but hey, at least you can’t say he’s completely checked out.)

On Simmons, Brown didn’t give a timetable for his return but did say, “You’re going to start seeing him be integrated more and more as this new year is upon us.” Also, Brown described Simmons’ rehab as “a three-pronged attack”:

1.    “Just normal health and recovery with a physiotherapist. And nutritions and diets and those types of exercises to get his foot healthy.”

2.    “The breakdown of his shot, form shooting. Going from a wheelie thing to being on one foot to being on two foot, the growth of that.”

3.    “The final thing is just him with me in a classroom [studying film].”

Luckily for Simmons, he showed up late enough in The Process that a team culture has perhaps started to take shape. With younger teammates who can relate to his situation, the top overall pick is now adding a fourth prong to his rehab off the court.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann