For the Sixers, who open training camp next week in Camden, New Jersey, this upcoming season has been three years and a couple of hundred trips to the doctor in the making.
Ben Simmons is back, general manager Bryan Colangelo announced in a media luncheon on Wednesday. The 21-year-old Aussie, who sat for the duration of what would have been his rookie season last year due to a Jones fracture in his foot, is “dominating the gym,” according to Colangelo.
Coach Brett Brown hyped Simmons’s play up even more, saying that “right off the bat, he has the chance to be a multi-position elite defensive player,” adding that he plans to let Simmons guard the 4-spot. Brown also cleared up what the 6-foot-10 rookie’s role would be on the other end of the court, in respect to the team’s newest no. 1 overall pick, Markelle Fultz: “I’m committed to him [at point guard], even in the half court.” (Throwback to early July, just after Philly drafted Fultz, when Simmons told reporters “I think you can move me anywhere, but I’m a starting point guard.” Fake it till you make it … onto the court.)
For all the glowing health updates the Sixers threw out about the point forward—he has been playing five-on-five for a while now without any anticipation for minute restrictions in the season—there was also a sobering Joel Embiid update. It was, unfortunately, very on-brand for the man who will start his fourth year in the league having played just 31 games.
Brown was “not able to say” what the team will get out of Embiid next week in training camp, and not because of what 94WIP radio personality Howard Eskin reported two weeks ago, that the center wants to hold out until he gets a contract extension. Embiid, whose brief, minutes-limited season ended with a meniscus tear in January, has not been medically cleared for training camp. Colangelo said there is no “setback” in his recovery; rather, the team is just being “hyper-conservative” with the timeline for his rehab.
After Embiid suffered three season-ending injuries in three years, Colangelo’s mind-set is understandable. “He will be out there for the first practice and first game. The question is, how much?” (Embiid’s career high in minutes played is 30 minutes.)
Signing Embiid to an extension is “certainly something that is being considered and discussed,” Colangelo added, saying he’s “cautiously optimistic,” a phrase that sums up Philadelphia quite well ahead of the 2017-18 season.