Ben Simmons won’t play this season. Bryan Colangelo, the Sixers GM, confirmed that the scan on Simmons’ foot shows that the Jones fracture he suffered during preseason camp still has not healed, and the team made the decision to keep him out for the remainder of the season.
“I have always known that there was a desire to get him back on the court when healthy,” Colangelo said at a press conference Friday. “We always anticipated there was an opportunity hopefully this season, with an outside chance that wouldn’t happen because there wasn’t complete or full healing.
“We weren’t going to put Ben Simmons in a position of risk for a re-fracture.”
Colangelo addressed the Jones fracture timeline, which is normally only a few months. “Everybody is different,” he said. “Everything plays a factor here. There’s genetic things that change the healing patterns of people. It’s not three to four months in every case. It’s three to four months in most cases.”
“Today, on the heels of finding out yesterday there was incomplete healing,” Colangelo continued, “we’re going to move forward with the same path and same plan…evolving in that care. We want to make sure no matter what the case, Ben Simmons only takes the court when [the scan] shows full healing.”
Simmons follows the trend of Sixers stars who have missed time to start their careers. Nerlens Noel, who was just traded Thursday, missed his first full season with the Sixers. Joel Embiid, the star center who, himself, has missed several weeks with what Colangelo said is a bone bruise on his knee that will keep him out for at least a few more games, didn’t play for two full seasons because of injuries.
The difference with Simmons is that Noel and Embiid were drafted while injured; a series of calculated risks that will be debated for a decade now that Sam Hinkie is out, Noel is gone and Embiid’s debut season has been stilted. Noel is a good player, but his clock started a year before he was able to play and the Sixers had to either re-sign him in the off-season or trade him now. With Embiid missing two years, the entire Process era was ostensibly put on hold until he was ready.
This was supposed to be the Sixers’ year. Embiid was healthy, Simmons was the top pick in the draft and Dario Saric had finally decided to come over from Europe. This was supposed to be the year the Sixers showed progress on the floor — the team’s hackneyed slogan to start the season was From Process to Progress — but given Simmons being out as long as he has, and Embiid being limited in minutes, games and now out with another prolonged injury, the season was never what the team had hoped, or promised.
“There was no effort to deceive fans, deceive the media,” Colangelo said. “Injuries are unpredictable.”
Next year should be the Sixers’ true start of whatever this Process will be, with their young core of a healthy Embiid and Simmons, surrounded by talented players like Saric and, presumably, whoever they get in the draft this year, plus whatever they might get for Jahlil Okafor if and when he is dealt in the future.
Players like Robert Covington, Timothy Luwawu-Cabarrot and, potentially, Justin Anderson who was brought in as part of the Noel trade, could prove to be a young unit that can grow together. They just have to stay healthy, which no one can assume they will.
For fans, the team’s promise of progress won’t happen this year. Fans have every right to be irate with the team, as they wrongly gave timelines for players to return that were unrealistic or, recently, flat-out lies.
There has been speculation within media circles the team waited this long to announce Simmons wouldn’t play to keep ticket sales strong for the remainder of this year and for next year’s season tickets, which have been on sale for several weeks. That’s a cynical view, but one that feels plausible at this point.
Colangelo said several times on Friday that he was wrong to call Embiid’s injury “day-to-day”, suggesting he should have said “out indefinitely.” He insisted the team was not trying to deceive anyone.
We just don’t know what to think at this point. Frankly, it seems like the Sixers don’t either.