NBA: Summer League-Philadelphia 76ers vs Chicago Bulls
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Simmons teases his Sixers return on Jan. 27, internet goes nuts

The No. 1 pick may have tipped the nationally-televised date on Instagram.

NBA: Summer League-Philadelphia 76ers vs Chicago Bulls
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
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Ben Simmons is coming back. Soon. We think.

Ok, well, at least Sixers Twitter thinks.

In late October, Sixers coach Brett Brown told reporters he expected Simmons to make his Sixers debut in January, as the No. 1 pick continued to rehab a Jones fracture of his right foot he suffered in practice in late September. It sounded pretty definitive, too, as Brown was quoted as saying, “it’s not doom and gloom. Ben is coming back in January…” amidst a bunch of other, less important, Sixers injury information.

Predictably, the internet (read: Sixers Twitter) was abuzz about the Simmons news. We finally had a launch date for the most heralded Sixers rookie class in history (Simmons, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and, heck, the way he’s played lately, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.) Catching wind of The Process fever and realizing Brown excitedly broke news he’s probably not medically-certified to break, the Sixers walked back the January timeline almost immediately. Per Keith Pompey at Philly.com:

“I was just getting excited about how soon he might be able to come back,” Brown said. “There are so much speculation and dates as a coach you sort of want to hear what you want to hear at a time. I did mention a January hopeful return. That is premature.

 

“That is a coach doing a lot more wishing than receiving instruction. So we will play this out. Everything is on track with his rehabilitation.”

Now, it seems that January timeline may have been right all along.

The Sixers announced late Tuesday that their game with the Houston Rockets on January 27th has been moved to 8:00 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN, bumping the previously-scheduled Miami-Chicago game off that timeslot. Yes, the Sixers just bumped the Bulls and Heat — D-Wade against his old team — out of the national spotlight.

But why? Could it be because James Harden is pushing for the MVP and the NBA didn’t want to pass up a chance to put Harden and the sure-fire Rookie of the Year in Embiid on the same court together? Sure, it could be that. Or it could be this:

?

Sixers Twitter thinks it’s that.

The math adds up. Simmons joined the Sixers on the bench in mid-December, a pretty clear indication in the NBA that the guy will return at some point in the near future. Brown’s October comments about Simmons returning in January if his rehab stayed on schedule has been the only official statement (unofficially official at least) the team made about his timeline, leaving Sixers Twitter, and Sixers media, to speculate while we wait for an real update.

And yet, all signs indicate Simmons is getting closer to a return. Back in November Simmons was asked by Drew Corrigan of Bleacher Report to “favorite” a tweet if Simmons thought he’d be back “before all-star break.” Simmons favorited the tweet. Two weeks later, Simmons was sitting on the bench with the team.

On January 10, Simmons began playing in 5-on-0 situations in practice, even running the point on offense. Embiid told reporters last week how excited he was to be on the court with Simmons in actual basketball situations. The rookie seemed closer to returning, if not, yet, close.

Now he seems close.

Simmons often drops shots of himself on the court on Instagram, so it’s not as if that photo of him was a direct indication that his return is imminent. Perhaps the timing was nothing more than coincidence and Sixers Twitter overreacted. Still… ?.

Shortly after the photo of himself in Sixers’ practice gear dropped, Simmons threw up another training photo on Instagram, this one sans any shirt at all.

Until the Sixers officially announce his return, all any of us can do is speculate. But the timeline works, and ESPN was here, in Philly, to televise what was supposed to be his debut in the season opener, so this all feels a bit cozy. And for Sixers Twitter — and the rest of the team’s fans — very exciting.