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Ben Simmons’ broken foot should prompt increased patience from Sixers management

The circumstances feel dire, but Philadelphia must show patience with Simmons’ foot injury.

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Bryan Colangelo’s installation as Sixers GM came with instant action, but the symbolism stood on equal footing with the immediate consequences. For fans and pundits fed up with delayed gratification, he represented a jolt to the system, even as he preached patience to the public.

The Sixers might be dead set on displaying major improvement this season, but they can’t let that desire trump the need to treat Ben Simmons’ injury as a long-term problem.

To be crude, the Sixers are not good enough for this injury to matter short-term. With or without Simmons they were destined to hover in the low-mid 20’s win range. Lineup compositions will change — Dario Saric figures to benefit from the opening of power forward minutes — but the broader outcome isn’t likely to mutate.

Like Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel before him, there is nothing Simmons can accomplish this season that is more important than the team protecting him from career-altering damage.

It sucks to look at the player you selected No. 1 overall and keep your thoughts all down the road. Having the top selection in the draft represents something bigger than just one player; it’s a chance to change the fortunes of your franchise, to snag a talent capable of pushing your team to new heights.

Philadelphia has pushed Simmons as a face of the franchise for good reason. His prolific college numbers and flashy Summer League performances push him beyond the credibility that comes attached to any top pick. He greeted fans at the Sixers Beach Bash and worked out with legends like LeBron James over the summer; stardom seems like a when, not if proposition.

When will consume the basketball public. This is typical — no one cares much about the injury itself so much as what it means for a player’s availability. We laud players when they display “toughness” and the ability to play through pain, with little concern or regard for those who can’t stay healthy.

Colangelo, Josh Harris and the larger Sixers brain trust can’t fall into that trap. They didn’t take Simmons to lead them to a championship this year, they selected him because his potential in years to come was greater than any of his peers.

Heeding that notion becomes a tougher proposition once he’s removed from the active rotation. This was supposed to be the year of ascent, of Simmons and Embiid lifting the franchise up with the assistance of a diverse supporting cast. The temptation to fixate on how quickly the Sixers can bring him back is obvious. But they have to be better than that.

The jury is still out on the severity of the injury, but cautionary tales light the way forward for Philadelphia. Kevin Durant’s foot issues were woefully mismanaged during the 2014-15 season, in large part because the Oklahoma City Thunder undersold the recovery timeframe and ignored signs of continued irritation. Without the temptation of immediate contention looming over the team, the Sixers should be able to avoid this pitfall.

If the franchise carries anything over from the Sam Hinkie era, it should be dedication to the long-term health of their players.

Liberty Ballers was told last summer that Embiid’s second foot surgery was not a “do-or-die” procedure. According to multiple sources familiar with the decision-making process, the call to put Embiid under the knife again was an odds play. Rather than roll the dice on what was described to LB as a “50-50” chance of Embiid staying healthy, they chose to extend his time on the sideline in order to maximize his chance at having a long, healthy NBA career.

That level of care is critical. Though the nature of Simmons’ injury points toward freak incident rather than structural weakness, the Sixers are still dealing with a 6’10, 250 lb. giant with a foot injury. The worst thing they can do is rush him back to feed a carnivorous fanbase their prized rookie, future costs be damned.

Aside from the health concerns for Simmons, this also presents a test of Colangelo’s patience on the trade market. Simmons was drafted to be a hub for the team’s offense, and now they’re left without a player who packaged dominant rebounding and playmaking for an undetermined length of time.

Sixers fans have approached this offseason with cautious optimism, afraid their new GM might make a short-sighted move to acquire an overrated, name-brand player. Despite the positive direction under Colangelo, the sudden power vacuum throws everything into uncertainty.

The hope will be that Colangelo retains the even-handed approach displayed over the summer. You can’t duplicate the cultural gravity of the incoming No. 1 overall pick, and fans have to hope the Sixers don’t attempt to. The fanbase lusted over lottery odds for several seasons consecutively, and a bandaid in the ilk of a Rudy Gay would do nothing to satiate them.

Doom and gloom feels overwhelming after two seasons of Embiid foot woes, but the sky isn’t falling. So long as the Sixers keep their eye on future prosperity and Simmons’ best interests, they’ll emerge from this unscathed. Time is their friend, and they would be wise to utilize it.

As a wise man once said: