The Philadelphia 76ers will be down at least four players in their preseason finale. And maybe a fifth guy, depending on how the Ben Simmons’ situation unfolds. The disgruntled star is still awaiting clearance from NBA health and safety protocols.
Simmons wasn’t at Sixers’ practice on Thursday, October 14 and no one knows for sure when or if he’ll suit up. The three-time All-Star underwent COVID-19 testing upon arriving back in Philadelphia. He is allowed to do individual work, but no team drills.
Head coach Doc Rivers expressed optimism – very tepid, fingers crossed kind of optimism – that his starting point guard could see action against the Detroit Pistons (Friday, October 15).
“No, not yet,” Rivers said when asked for an update. “But we’ll find that out. You’ll know.”
Meanwhile, Tobias Harris was missing in action again at practice as he deals with right knee soreness. He has only played in one preseason game, the second one on October 7. It was starting to look worrisome, but Rivers denied any internal concerns. Harris was in the gym for individual work, no team stuff. The Sixers are just being extra cautious with their third star.
“If this was the playoffs, Tobias would be playing,” Rivers said. “We figured let’s get ahead of it. Let’s make sure there are no lingering problems.”
Rivers added that Shake Milton (ankle), Grant Riller (knee surgery), Matisse Thybulle (shoulder) are all skipping the trip to Detroit. The head coach mentioned an extra day of rest is coming on Saturday, October 16 and then he hopes to have the whole team on the floor for practice on Sunday, October 17. The regular season begins Wednesday, October 20 in New Orleans.
Simmons? Who knows. For now, Rivers’ goal is to get him acclimated.
“I’m not really looking for anything, just him coming in and working and that’s it,” Rivers said. “It’s just too early, one day.”
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Tyrese Maxey Cleared to Play
Tyrese Maxey should be the starting point guard for the final exhibition game, barring a last-minute appearance from Simmons. The second-year guard had been losing ground to Milton for the job in camp. Now Milton’s hurt and those minutes should revert back to Maxey. Whether starter or sixth man, the 20-year-old is preparing the same way.
“You got to be mentally focused, mentally locked in,” Maxey said. “At the end of the day, this is a job and whatever the situation is, you got to be mentally prepared for it. Last year, I think, was the biggest test of my life as far as not knowing when I was going to play, not knowing what my role was going to be. But one thing I always told myself: I’m always going to stay ready for the moment and do whatever I need to do to help this team win and that’s just my message again this year.”
Georges Niang Chimes in on Simmons
Georges Niang is the new kid on the block. He landed in Philly thanks to an edict from Rivers to improve the bench, specifically with a stretch four who can shoot. Niang fits that bill to a tee. And now he’s been thrown into the Simmons’ saga.
The 6-foot-7 forward played with the Utah Jazz last season so he doesn’t really know Simmons. He hasn’t seen him in the building or conversated with him over the phone. Still, Niang was toeing the company line when asked about getting him back.
“He’s a part of the team,” Niang said. “I haven’t seen him. I show up to practice every day and participate with the guys that are here and I’ll be ready to continue to play the way I play when he is playing alongside us.”