The 76ers were already likely to go several months before Ben Simmons, who broke his foot on Friday, makes his NBA debut. But could the No. 1 overall pick in June's draft wind up sitting out the entire season?
That's a distinct possibility, according to Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News, who told a radio station there, "I just got off the phone with somebody who I really trust in the NBA, and he's like, there's no way his agent is going to let him play this year. That's an injury that you don't mess around with, and he thinks he's going to keep him off his feet all year."
That agent would be Rich Paul, who also represents LeBron James and John Wall, and thus has a fair amount of clout in league circles. Given the severity of the injury, Paul and Simmons have reason to want to proceed with great caution, and the recent history of the 76ers indicates that the team would, as well, although the current, tentative timetable has the prized rookie returning in late December or early January.
Simmons fractured the fifth metatarsal of his right foot during the 76ers' final training camp scrimmage, and Sunday, team President Bryan Colangelo said (via the AP), "It's likely that he's going to require surgery." Colangelo added that there was "no way" Simmons would be hurried back into action.
In a process (a word infamous among 76ers fans) that began several years ago under former general manager Sam Hinkie, Philadelphia has undertaken an extraordinarily drawn-out rebuilding effort, one involving the stockpiling of draft picks and other future assets, often at the expense of fielding competitive teams. That process was expected to take a leap forward this season with the addition of Simmons, plus the arrivals of 2014 selections Joel Embiid, who missed his first two seasons with foot injuries, and Dario Saric, who spent the past two seasons playing in Europe.
The 76ers drafted Embiid knowing of his injury issues, just as they did with Nerlens Noel, who missed his rookie season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The location of Simmons's injury is cause for concern, as players have been known to need multiple procedures for such fractures.
One example is Kevin Durant, who was operated upon for a Jones fracture, which affects the fifth metatarsal, before the 2014-15 season and wound up opting for another procedure in March of last year. Many observers thought that he tried to come back to soon, including, apparently, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who cited that episode while writing Sunday, "The 76ers should strongly consider ending Ben Simmons's season before it officially begins."
"The franchise has too much invested in Simmons to even consider having him play in a season in which they will be lucky to win 25 games," Pompey wrote. "The 6-foot-10, 250-pound point forward is a franchise player with the potential to be a megastar like LeBron James, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. So the Sixers, now more than ever, need to do everything possible to make sure that remains attainable."
Simmons, a native of Australia, played for one season at LSU before entering the NBA draft, a move widely anticipated well before he entered college.