For months now, we’ve wondered if Ben Simmons would be healthy enough to play if the NBA season resumed. The Sixers for the most part have been consistent with saying the All-Star is healthy.
On a video conference call with reporters Thursday, Simmons put to rest any notion that the nerve impingement in his lower back would still be a problem in Disney World.
“I’m feeling even better than I was when I started the season,” Simmons said. “I’ve been working since I had the injury, working until now to be prepared for whatever happens, wherever we go. So I’m feeling great, been rehabbing this whole time, so I’ve been feeling ready and very comfortable.”
While the NBA stopping play amid the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t an ideal scenario, the silver lining for the Sixers is Simmons’ health. He basically got the equivalent of an offseason to not only rehab his injury, but also get stronger.
If you follow Simmons on social media, you’ve likely seen images of him in the weight room. That wasn’t just a show. Simmons said he’s added “a lot more muscle” which was his focus during the time off.
Now, his back is fully recovered and he’s ready to go when the league resumes play.
“Overall, just more strength,” Simmons said when asked to put his muscle gain in context. “It’s hard to keep that size on during the season so this was kind of like a resetting point. I was able to get Pilates in almost every day. Lifting weights, taking care of my body and getting back to 100 percent. I’ve just been trying to go overboard with that and being prepared to be down there and play.”
Is he feeling more explosive?
More explosive, definitely, but just more control,” Simmons said. “I feel a lot more control when I’m out there on the floor and knowing what I’m capable of with my body. It just feels very good and overall, I just feel like I’m back to 100 percent. It’s just a good feeling.
Speaking of health, the Sixers are preparing to head down to Florida next Thursday and head into the NBA’s “bubble.” Since Phase 2 of the league’s health protocols began on June 23, 25 of the 351 players that have been tested were positive for COVID-19.
While there is apprehension and uncertainty surrounding the NBA’s return to play, Simmons is putting his trust in the league and players like LeBron James and Chris Paul to lead the way. Though Simmons respects other players' decisions for opting out, as long as his teammates were going, he was “all in.”
As for his role on the court once they get down there, some questions remain.
We’ve seen Brett Brown use Simmons more as a screener and roller this season. The results have been fruitful at times. Brown has said he will look to use Simmons more in that capacity in the playoffs, unlike last season when Simmons was relegated to the dunker spot.
Brown has lauded Simmons’ versatility and his young All-Star is on board for whatever role he’s assigned.
I think I’m the type of player who can be in multiple positions and different spots to help the team,” Simmons said. “I feel like I have a very high IQ on the court and see things a lot differently. I’m able to pass the ball very well, so that’s always a threat. But I love playing in that pick-and-roll, that situation — or pick-and-pop, whatever it is. It just gives us so many different options and it’s tough to guard.
Simmons has played some of the best basketball of his career this season, in part because of Brown being creative in the way he’s used the 6-foot-10 point guard. Unfortunately, that hasn’t translated as much to wins as the Sixers would like. After such lofty expectations to start the season, they find themselves as the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed.
While there may be doubters on the outside, Simmons knows what his team can do at its best.
“We’re not worried about what other people are saying,” Simmons said. “We’ve got to focus on ourselves and get ready to compete. We’ve beaten the best teams in the league so we’re ready to compete. We’re a young, healthy team right now so we’re looking forward to grabbing this opportunity and going all the way. We’re not going to go out there doubting ourselves. We know what we’re capable of.”
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