76ers GM Elton Brand ‘optimistic’ Ben Simmons can play if games resume

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The last time we saw Ben Simmons on an NBA court it was Feb. 11, a month before the coronavirus forced a shut down of the NBA season. A nerve impingement in Simmons’ lower back sidelined him for eight games, and there were questions about whether he would return for the playoffs.

With the added time off, 76ers GM Elton Brand is “optimistic” Simmons will be ready to go when — or, if — the playoffs start.

Brand spoke to the media in a conference call Tuesday.

“I give Ben and our medical staff a ton of credit for their hard work throughout his recovery,” he 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. I’m very optimistic he’ll be able to play if and when we’re given that green light to resume…

“We’ve took our time, we’ve been methodical and thoughtful about his recovery and rehab, just to make sure, because we weren’t in a rush. It’s hard to speculate. He’s been working hard and I know he’d be close or ready…  When I FaceTime him during his workouts and his treatments and I see him, I’d be highly encouraged.”

The caution in Brand’s statements are tied to the fact that, due to team practice facilities being shut down, Simmons has not been able to play in any game situations, such as 3-on-3  or 5-on-5 scrimmages. He probably would be able to handle that, but rehabs can have setbacks.

Simmons being ready to return was reported before, but it’s good to hear it from the team itself.

Philadelphia needs Simmons healthy to be a genuine postseason threat, particularly to Milwaukee (a team the Sixers match up well against). Simmons averaged 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 8.2 assists per game last season, and was an All-Star. They can’t replace that production easily.