CAMDEN, N.J. — A three-time All-Star who stands 6-foot-10 was “just one of the players” at Sixers practice Sunday, according to head coach Doc Rivers.
Believe that if you wish.
Ben Simmons practiced for the first time since his trade request and holdout. He did not speak with reporters, though a team official said the expectation is Simmons will be available to media members Monday or Tuesday.
“It was good,” Rivers said. “Overall, he was in and out. It was not a great practice — not because Ben, more because of taking a day off and having three days before the first game. … But overall, it was good today.”
Was Simmons’ return to a full-team setting awkward?
“No. It was perfectly fine,” Tobias Harris said with a smile and a tone full of something besides sincerity. “Come on, man.”
Harris wore a sleeve on his right knee and was a partial participant in practice. He’d been sidelined by knee soreness. Matisse Thybulle also practiced, returning from right shoulder soreness, and said he’s “absolutely” on track to play in the Sixers’ season opener Wednesday against the Pelicans. Meanwhile, Shake Milton (right ankle sprain) is “nowhere near playing yet” and will “be out for a while,” per Rivers.
Harris emphasized that the Sixers aren’t consumed by all the twists and turns with Simmons.
“To be honest, the response for us is look, we’ve got the opening to our season coming up,” Harris said. “Truth be told, that’s honestly where our focus is. We’re grown men here. This is not middle school — seventh grade, eighth grade. ‘Oh, you did this to me, you did this.’ No. As soon as we step on that floor, it’s just basketball. Honestly, that’s the way it should be.
“We’re here for one thing, and that’s to be the best team we can be, and compete and get better as a group. All the other energy of this and that … the vibe was what it was. Was it perfect? No. But we’re here to do a job, and that’s to win basketball games. We put our big-boy pants on, and we get on the floor and do what we do. That’s pretty much it.”
As Rivers recounted it, the Sixers had no grand ceremony or extended dialogue to mark the occasion of Simmons’ participation.
“No, we just introduced, like we always do when a new guy comes in or an old guy comes back,” Rivers said. “We jokingly did it with Ben. We did it with Tobias as well, because he’s been on vacation — and Matisse as well. As I’ve told you before with players, they pretty much welcome guys back. That’s how it is.”
Simmons was not among the players on the floor when reporters were allowed into the gym. Based on Furkan Korkmaz’s assessment, there wasn’t anything dramatically different about the 25-year-old.
“He looks good," Korkmaz said. “He’s in shape. We know Ben, he takes care of his body a lot. He plays hard, he plays fast — we know that. But he looks good.”
Perhaps Simmons’ first media session of the season will provide greater insight. For now, the Sixers are expectedly continuing to avoid any declarative statements about his status.
“I don’t know yet,” Rivers said of whether Simmons would play Wednesday. “I’m going to wait and see. Conditioning, I would say just watching him, I thought he was in decent shape. Still not obviously game shape. … Right now, I’m just trying to get him back comfortable and integrated.
“I’m not even thinking about that. That’ll come at some point, but there’s no game plan yet, I’ll tell you that. When he’s ready, he’ll play.”