Over the last three seasons, visiting jerseys popped up everywhere in the Wells Fargo Center.
LeBron. Durant. Westbrook. Curry.
Finally, after 47 wins and a whole lot of suffering, Sixers jerseys began to appear this season — most notably, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. If the Sixers are going to take the next step, this duo will be the ones carrying the franchise.
Embiid sat out his seventh straight game — a 111-103 loss to the San Antonio Spurs — and Simmons continues to miss action as he recovers from a fracture in his foot.
Embiid has already been ruled out for tonight at Orlando and Simmons is likely to sit until the All-Star break, maybe longer. It’s possible the prized rookie from LSU could miss the entire season.
The Sixers fell to 18-34 after the Spurs’ loss, their fifth in a row. Barring a miraculous finish, they’re not going to the playoffs.
At some point, however, it’s imperative for the franchise to feature Embiid and Simmons together. It will provide another glimpse of hope. It will provide the fans with at look at what potentially lies ahead. It’s necessary, too.
Yes, the Sixers have a better chance to improve their draft position in the lottery. A sampling of the Embiid-Simmons duo is a must.
When healthy, Embiid has been a major force while performing at an All-Star level, even if he wasn’t picked.
“There's no conspiracy theory going on,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said of Embiid’s bone bruise. “I believe we're going to see him not too far away. … It’s not 110 percent and anything short of that we're not gonna do it.”
Simmons has been visible with his teammates and learning as much as possible. Until he gets on the court, fans will continue to wonder.
“We got back from Detroit really late two nights ago and got up yesterday and had Joel and Ben in my office for 45 minutes or so just talking with them,” Brown said. “Twenty minutes after that, went out onto the court and worked Joel out. I won't [offer a timetable for Simmons] because we don't really have one. But it's moving forward. I know, I understand fans especially and the like need to have some clarity on time, but we can't give it. It's just not there. He's moving along, but it doesn't answer bottom-line questions that everybody wants to hear.”
Missing two full seasons and then showing All-Star ability has this fan base buzzing. Fans are clamoring for Simmons and Embiid. It’s evident by the sheer number of jerseys around the arena.
“It is taking so long because we are just erring, we will err on extreme caution,” Brown said. “Joel is as good a fighter as I've coached in regards to challenging everybody. Look at his body language when somebody says, 'You can't go in in the overtime game.' He is a competitive, competitive, highly skilled young player. So that side of it factors into all of this, too. But it shouldn't be read into or assumed something is wrong because it isn't. Everybody understands I think, we've heard it so much over the years, that we're just moving slowly and trying to move wisely."
Being patient is completely understandable. It’s time to move. The wait is over. This is year four of the Brown era. The young stars need to play.