At some point during 76ers home games, a picture is shown on the Jumbotron featuring two ultra-talented players.
There’s only one problem: neither one is playing right now. Neither player may suit up the rest of the season.
Prized No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons has already been ruled out for the remainder of the season while recovering from a second minor procedure on his foot. Joel Embiid, who flashed unbelievable skills in the 31 games he did play, is out indefinitely with swelling and soreness in his knee.
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Ersan Ilyasova and Nerlens Noel were already shipped out before the trade deadline.
The Sixers are being extra cautious with Embiid and Simmons. That’s understandable. When next season rolls around, the patient fan base needs to see this dynamic duo on the court. They need to see improvement in all areas. They need to see a legitimate free agent. Coach Brett Brown’s fifth season will soon be here. It’s time to start winning.
Minute restrictions and timetables don’t seem to be the answer.
Let’s start with Embiid. He wants to play. He has competed at an All-Star level. But he needs to be healthy.
“I think you have to be concerned about everything when you look at players and their health and their health status,” Sixers President Bryan Colangelo said on Comcast SportsNet’s “Philly Sports Talk” Monday. “What we've been told and what I have been indicated based on the scans and based on the things that we know to date is that everything is moving along. It's moving along perhaps not in a great fashion in that as indicated by the swelling and soreness. But the most important thing is that we take great care in making sure he only gets back on the court when he's ready and healed.”
Simmons suffered his foot injury in training camp. By all accounts, the former LSU standout was expected back before his rookie season concluded. It’s not going to happen.
“It has been a disappointment more than a surprise,” Colangelo said. “Every athlete or every human heals differently. The conditions that we put him in, we felt like we followed that same planned progression. The healing did not occur. The scans most recently showed that although there was improvement in scans in the development there, it wasn't enough and it wasn't fully healed and without full healing, we don't want to put him out on the court. So the procedure today, a minor procedure, bone marrow injection is simply a means of trying to stimulate bone growth and develop a stronger bone.”
Through all the injuries, the Sixers are playing extremely hard for Brown. Undrafted players such as Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell are improving majorly.
Without the franchise cornerstones, it’s an incomplete project. Or process.
In 2017-18, Embiid and Simmons need to be there from day one. Other draft picks and talented players need to surround them along with key holdovers such as Dario Saric, Gerald Henderson and Richaun Holmes.
If minute restrictions or injury setbacks occur next season, this fan base is going to become antsy. And rightfully so.