It seems as though the Sixers’ prodigal son Ben Simmons has returned after a lengthy holdout that has cost him, both with the fanbase and in the wallet. No one is quite sure of his intentions just yet.
Has he returned simply to begin collecting his salary again, or is he returning because he truly wants to rejoin the team and mend fences with Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid?
There are myriad ways this saga could conclude – and if you ask most Sixers fans, they’d prefer it ends with Simmons playing for a different team.
The three-time All-Star has been as confounding and divisive an athlete as any in Philadelphia sports history, and most have washed their hands of him. But what if Simmons not only returns, but becomes the offensive weapon that everyone has dreamed he could be ever since he was drafted first overall five years ago?
What if instead of looking to pass when the lane fills with defenders, Simmons snapped off a 15-footer, or a little floater? He could be the NBA version of the Crane Kick from the Karate Kid movie: if done correctly, it can not be stopped.
Considering every way this journey could end, this would likely be among the most outlandish. The "if" that has followed Simmons his entire NBA career is like Mount Everest – thousands of feet tall, and nearly impassable.
However, who could have predicted what has gone on since the Sixers were eliminated from the postseason 114 days ago? Simmons’ heel turn on his teammates, his head coach, the city and the fans who loved him was a happenstance even the most imaginative telenovela scriptwriters would have scoffed at.
Rivers and Embiid both said Monday night that they would welcome Simmons back, in spite of everything that has gone on over the past four months. The fans may be a much tougher sell. But imagine a rejuvenated Simmons, on an NBA court, finally employing the skill set that he’s shown in countless Instagram videos over the past few offseasons.
Consider that with Simmons, despite all his faults, the Sixers were true title contenders last season, regardless of what happened in that ill-fated series against the Hawks. And if a few things broke right, and the Sixers beat Atlanta, who knows what could’ve happened? Certainly not what we’ve witnessed.
The Sixers, and their fans, both want the same thing: a parade down Broad Street with the Larry O’Brien Trophy held high above a double-decker bus. If Ben Simmons returns to the team and balls out like we always hoped and believed that he could, it would go a long way toward achieving that ultimate goal.
And you had better believe that, while Sixers fans may not totally forget his sins over the summer, they could certainly be brought to forgiveness.