Injured rookie Ben Simmons has started traveling with the Sixers and has intensified his workouts, according to Bob Cooney of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Still recovering from the right foot fracture he suffered in September, Simmons ran sprints and shot jumpers before Friday’s game at Boston. “Because it’s starting to get into a new year and we’re seeing him without the boot and slowly integrated with the team, this is a part of it, including him on the road,” said coach Brett Brown. “At times, we have a physiotherapist and a better plan at home if we’re on really long road trips. It’s a sign that, you know, not too far away, we can see him and start integrating him more and more and more. This is the first small step to doing that.”
There’s more news out of Philadelphia:
- Jahlil Okafor is the latest big man to fall out of the Sixers’ rotation, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Okafor never got off the bench Friday, even as Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel were in foul trouble. Pompey notes that Okafor doesn’t fit the team’s new emphasis on defense, but adds that the Sixers can’t decide how to manage their three young big men. “There’s a body of work now that is enough to make some assumptions, some decisions in a more reasonable way,” Brown said after Friday’s game. “It’s not like we all just met each other. We’ve been doing this for a while. The great challenge is sometimes pairings aren’t as successful as you wish they were.”
- The most painful part of the Sixers’ rebuilding project appears to be over, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Philadelphia is a virtual lock to miss the playoffs again, but Washburn says the development of Embiid is one of many reasons for hope. The franchise will have room to offer two max contracts this summer and may get the Lakers’ first-round pick in addition to its own.
- Embiid is part of a young crop of versatile, mobile centers who are changing the way the game is being played, states Michael Lee of The Vertical. Embiid is also campaigning to have the center position returned to the All-Star ballot. They were mixed in with frontcourt players in 2013. “I feel like they should put the centers back. We’ve got a lot of talent,” Embiid said. “There’s a lot of talented centers in the league. That’s on [the NBA] to do that. But my job here is to keep playing basketball and be the best I can be and push them to make that decision to put the center back on the All-Star ballot.”