Ben Simmons' playing status for preseason finale unknown

Published October 14, 2021, 6:00 AMNBA.com News Services

Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers says he isn't ruling out Ben Simmons playing against Detroit.

Ben Simmons has yet to officially return to the court for the Philadelphia 76ers since surprising the team by returning to the city earlier this week. The Sixers have one preseason game left on their schedule and whether or not Simmons will suit up for it remains unknown.

Per Keith Pompey of Philly.com, Simmons has reportedly taken the required physical to clear the NBA’s COVID-19 protocol and also met with team officials at the Sixers’ practice facility. Per NBA policy, Simmons cannot participate in any team activities until he has five straight days of negative tests — the first of which took place on Monday.

The Sixers visit the Detroit Pistons on Saturday (PHT) in the final exhibition game for both teams. Coach Doc Rivers told reporters Wednesday that he met with Simmons twice on Tuesday and hasn’t ruled the All-Star guard out for Friday’s game. Additionally, Pompey reports Simmons is expected to come in for individual workouts at the team’s practice facility Wednesday night.

Simmons missed training camp and the preseason in the wake of his offseason trade demand that had left the Sixers without their three-time All-Star — and Simmons out millions in lost salary and fines. The 25-year-old Australian still has $147 million and four years left on his contract.

Rivers said he had not talked to Simmons during the holdout, only Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul. Sixers President Daryl Morey has fielded offers for Simmons but has yet to find a package to his satisfaction that would keep the the Sixers among the Eastern Conference’s best teams. That could shift come Dec. 15, when players who signed deals in the offseason are eligible to be moved.

Morey and Rivers have been publicly optimistic since the start of training camp that Simmons would play again for the Sixers. Rivers said Monday he did not know if the situation could be resolved this week.

Simmons, the No. 1 pick of the 2016 draft, had been paired with Joel Embiid as the franchise cornerstones as the Sixers chase their first NBA championship since 1983. Simmons, though, took the brunt of the blame for the top-seeded Sixers’ second-round exit in last season’s playoffs. He shot 34% from the free-throw line in the postseason and was reluctant to attempt a shot from anywhere on the floor late in games.

Rivers and Embiid both made pointed comments about Simmons following the Game 7 loss to Atlanta. However, Rivers later downplayed potential issues in the locker room, should Simmons return.

“Other than that first 10 minutes of ‘welcome back’ and taking the crap from your teammates about missing camp and stuff, guys want to win,” Rivers said. “They want to win and they look at Ben as a guy that can help them do that.”

Embiid endorsed Simmons’ return after the Sixers beat the Nets in a preseason game.

“I believe that he gives us the best chance to win,” Embiid said. “We’re a better team with him than without. That’s for sure. I’m happy that things have resolved and we can move on and can try and be a better team.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.