The details on Ben Simmons’ back injury have been a bit hazy.
Initially, Sixers head coach Brett Brown said Simmons hurt his back going up for a rebound at the team's practice on Feb. 19. On March 11, Simmons himself said he didn’t suffer the nerve impingement in his lower back until Feb. 22, when he was forced to leave the Sixers’ game against the Bucks in the first quarter.
Before Friday, the last we’d heard about Simmons’ back was on May 5 from general manager Elton Brand, who said he was “very optimistic” Simmons would be able to play if the 2019-20 season resumes during the coronavirus pandemic and noted Simmons has been cleared the use the Sixers’ practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, for rehab.
In a video call Friday, Brown gave a much more vivid description of Simmons’ injury and how serious it was.
For those of you who remember in Milwaukee … for me that was as disturbing a memory as it relates to a player that I can think of. He’s lying on his back, he’s vomiting primarily because of pain. Trying to get him back on the plane and build him back up to some level of health where he can play basketball again with us. That timeline was always an interesting one. As the head coach, you ask the question: ‘What do you think?’ His health obviously rules the day. The effort that he has put in, getting [from] where he was, and the significance — he hurt his back in a real way — the effort that he has put in under the restrictions that are all on top of us.
“He is to be praised and applauded in a real way, a significant way. The professionalism and discipline that he has shown, having that pass to get into the facility … he’s teed off on that. He’s been outstanding. It could be a little bit of the silver lining of this pandemic, just the fact that you actually have the chance to get somebody like Ben, as important as Ben is, back into our team.
Brown has been a professional coach since the late-1980s. If he can’t recall a more disturbing memory, that’s saying something.
As Brown said, Simmons is a vital piece for the Sixers, both in the short term and the long term. The team signed the two-time All-Star to a five-year, rookie maximum extension in July. Any injury that might have done severe damage to his career obviously merits concern.
Putting that aside, the image of a player with a sturdy, durable reputation like Simmons lying on the floor and vomiting is worrisome on its own. It sounds like Brown and the Sixers are relieved that he’s progressed from that state to a point where they believe he’ll likely be ready to go if this season continues.
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