Every Sixers fan across the country gave out a collective gasp when 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons was lying down on the court in pain in the fourth quarter of his summer league debut in a 102-94 loss to the Boston Celtics Monday night.
Visions of Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel ran through their minds as Simmons writhed in pain on the floor, grabbing each of his ankles in agony. But unlike Embiid and Noel, he sustained just minor injuries. He walked gingerly to the locker room and was diagnosed with just leg cramps — crisis averted.
Sixers fans will not have to see another one of their top picks glued to the bench in a suit and tie all season. On Independence Day, Simmons showed fans just the type of impact he can potentially have on the NBA level in just his first NBA minutes, even if it was cut short.
Simmons finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists in just 24 minutes with a couple of dazzling passes along the way. On one play, he zipped a pass from nearly three-quarters court to fellow rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot for an easy layup. On another, he drove into the lane, split three defenders and fed a pass behind his head to Richaun Holmes under the basket.
These are the superstar-caliber plays fans were hoping for when Simmons was selected with the first overall pick just a couple weeks ago. Bryan Colangelo is now trying to get the right players to surround him with to succeed.
RELATED LINK: A detailed look at the Sixers' current roster
On Friday, the Sixers locked up combo guard Jerryd Bayless to a three-year, $27 million contract. He ranked fifth in the NBA in three-point percentage (43.7) last season and has proven to be a serviceable point guard in his eight-year NBA career.
Monday, the Sixers added a true point guard, Spanish veteran Sergio Rodriguez to a one-year, $8 million deal. The 30-year-old Rodriguez averaged 10.9 points and 6.2 assists while shooting 40.9 percent from beyond the arc last season.
Tuesday, they locked up local product Gerald Henderson of Episcopal Academy to a two-year, $18 million deal. Henderson has been highly regarded throughout his playing career as a gifted athlete on both ends of the floor. Although not a great shooter, he shot a career-high of 35.3 percent from the outside last year with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Colangelo has now surrounded Simmons with veteran guards who can shoot as well as take some of the ball-handling duties away from Simmons. The Sixers, although far away from truly competing, are now starting to resemble a real NBA team.
Simmons is expected to rest up until Thursday night’s game against the Utah Jazz. While fans get to catch a glimpse of Simmons in action again, Colangelo will surely be doing all he can to keep adding measured talent to the roster in order to elevate Simmons’ play when the 2016-17 season begins in October.