It’s something the Philadelphia 76ers and their fans feared, and now it’s confirmed. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Ben Simmons will be leaving the NBA’s Orlando bubble to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee after suffering a left patella subluxation (partial dislocation) in the Sixers’ 107-98 win against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.
As Wojnarowski explained, Simmons will need to have a loose body removed from his knee, which could likely keep him out for the rest of the Sixers’ season:
Simmons will have a loose body removed from his left knee in the coming days, and only a deep Sixers playoff could keep a fleeting hope of his return alive this season, sources said. Even then, his return from the procedure — expected to take place outside of the Disney campus in the coming days — is largely expected to come next season.
Injuries are always terrible, and this one is particularly frustrating for Simmons. He had worked so hard to get back in top shape and even improve his strength after his lower back injury earlier in the year. Now, he faces more surgery and rehab just as the Sixers were working to figure things out with Simmons in his new role for the playoffs.
Even with Simmons, the Sixers had been going through some struggles since the season returned. Their defense hasn’t been close to its best in the Orlando bubble, and their offense has enough issues even when they’re full healthy due to a lack of playmaking, perimeter creation, and quick-trigger shooting.
Simply put, the Sixers won’t be much of a threat in the playoffs without Ben Simmons.
It should go without saying that the priority for the Sixers should be Simmons’ long-term health, and ensuring that they don’t even think about rushing him back this season. Although, seeing as that might require the Sixers making the Eastern Conference Finals or NBA Finals, it’s unlikely that will be an issue.
At the Sixers’ practice on Thursday, Brett Brown discussed the increased responsibility that there will be on Joel Embiid in Simmons’ absence.
“I think there’s more responsibility on everybody, but especially Joel,” Brown said. “I feel like his rim protection, him being such a presence at the rim, looking to block shots, looking to defensive rebound, stuff in the paint, stuff at the rim as it relates to defense, I think it’s going to be even more required. We need him to go to even a higher level defensively... Offensively, he needs to get as many touches as we can get him.”
Fortunately for the Sixers, Embiid has been dominating in the bubble so far, apart from falling off against the Magic on Friday. Through 4 games, he’s averaging 30 points on 53.8 percent shooting, 13.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. He’s also shown some impressive growth and improved poise as a passer (I looked at this in more detail here) which will be particularly important now, as defenses won’t have to worry about Simmons and the Sixers should be focusing on using more wing/shooting-heavy lineups for Embiid to work with.
Al Horford is back in the starting lineup now, and while he still clearly isn’t an ideal fit with Embiid even without Simmons around (our Tyler Monahan looked at this more here), one positive for the Sixers is that his performance has improved in the bubble so far.