After holding out across the country in Los Angeles during the opening two-plus weeks of the 2021-22 season, Ben Simmons debuted at Philadelphia 76ers practice Sunday afternoon. Among Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz and head coach Doc Rivers, the consensus evaluation on the star guard’s return was “good.”
Harris said “it was cool” to have his teammate back on the floor, that he “looked great” and appears in good shape. Korkmaz said he missed Simmons, is happy to share the court with him again and that he “looks good.”
Rivers was a bit more tepid in his assessment, describing Simmons as in “decent shape,” but not “game shape,” though noted his point guard was a full participant in Sunday’s practice. At the moment, Simmons’ status for Wednesday’s regular-season opener against the New Orleans Pelicans remains unclear.
“I don’t know yet. I’m going to wait and see,” Rivers told reporters. “Right now, I’m just trying to get him back comfortable and integrated. ... When he’s ready, he’ll play.”
Simmons did not address the team prior to practice. There was no speech explaining his hiatus. Basketball was to be played, and so it was. Simmons was treated as anyone else would be following an absence. Typical courteous platitudes of Hey, how are you? What’s up? Welcome back were extended.
“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,” said Harris, who noted he’s spoken with Simmons directly but was adamant about keeping the details private. “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.”
For Thybulle — who said a week and a half of rehab was centered around regaining strength in his shoulder — Sunday represented his first practice as a full participant since missing the final three preseason games with a sore shoulder. As such, the buzz surrounding that development dominated his thoughts and focus rather than anyone else’s presence.
“Today was exciting for me. I haven’t had a chance to play live basketball in over a week. It was fun to get back out there with the guys and just get a feel again, and feel good,” said Thybulle, who is on track to play Wednesday. “I live in my world, my reality of it was my first practice back. So that’s all I was really worried about.”
OTHER PRACTICE NOTES
After spraining his ankle in practice last week, Shake Milton will “be out for a while” and is “nowhere near playing yet,” according to Rivers. He did not scrimmage Sunday.
Simmons and Thybulle were not the lone guys welcomed back into the fold. Harris, after sitting out three of four preseason games with knee soreness, participated in practice.
“Tobias, we were most careful with,” Rivers said. “Quite honestly, with some of the half-court pickup stuff, we didn’t keep him on the floor a lot. He’s fine. But for me, I need him to get to Wednesday.”
Harris said his knee is “feeling better” and that he “felt good out there, so we’ll see basically how it reacts tomorrow and go from there.”