Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons should be ready to play when the NBA season resumes.
Simmons missed eight games because of a nerve impingement in his lower back before the 2019-20 campaign was paused amid the coronavirus pandemic. The point guard was at that time set to be re-evaluated in three weeks, putting his availability for a late-season playoff push into question.
Sixers general manager Elton Brand now believes he will be able to suit up.
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“I’m very optimistic he’ll be able to play, if and when, we’re given that green light to resume,” Brand said on a conference call Tuesday.
The NBA leader in steals with 115, Simmons has been allowed to rehab at the 76ers’ practice facility and Brand has been encouraged by his progress. The next step is for Simmons to move on to three-on-three and five-on-five work, but those scrimmages will not be permitted until social distancing restrictions are lifted.
“I give Ben and our medical staff a ton of credit for their hard work throughout his recovery,” Brand said. “I give Ben so much credit for him working so hard throughout this unknown time. Fortunately, we’ve able to arrange for him to continue to get the treatment and rehab he needs during this hiatus.
”When I FaceTime him during his workouts and his treatments and I see him, I’d be highly encouraged.”
Simmons, 23 and a two-time All-Star, was in the midst of another excellent season before being sidelined, averaging 16.7 points, 8.2 assists, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 steals. He has been instrumental to Philadelphia’s success, as the 76ers are 33-21 when Simmons plays and 6-5 when he does not.
The Sixers were tied with the Pacers for fifth place in the Eastern Conference when the season was shut down, and Simmons’ return would be key to a playoff run.
”We’ve taken our time, we’ve been methodical and thoughtful about his recovery and rehab, just to make sure, because we weren’t in a rush,” Brand said.
”It’s hard to speculate. He’s been working hard and I know he’d be close or ready,” Brand also said.