Australian sensation Ben Simmons, who is yet to make his NBA debut after suffering a foot injury last October, returned to the court for five-on-zero practice drills with the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, per reports.
Simmons, drafted No. 1 overall by the Sixers at the 2016 NBA Draft, underwent surgery on Oct. 4 to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. At the time, the team announced Simmons would need approximately three months to rehabilitate and possibly play his first NBA game before the end of the 2016-17 season.
While there is still no exact timetable on his return, the Sixers coaching staff are highly optimistic about Simmons' return after the 6-foot-10 forward went through the scripted drills that were described as "very light" by coach Brett Brown.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Simmons "practiced at 80 percent instead of going all-out" but showed enough promising signs that encouraged coach Brown, who has reiterated that the team had no intention to rush the youngster back onto the court. “The gym got a lift. You could feel it," said Brown.
The Sixers, a team derailed by injuries to young draft picks in recent years, have been lauded by analysts for the handling of centre Joel Embiid, who missed his first two NBA seasons due to a persisting foot injury. This season, Embiid finally made his NBA debut and is the frontrunner to win the Rookie of the Year honour.
Therefore, Embiid realises that the team and the Sixers fan base are best advised to remain patient with regards to Simmons. “It was exciting (to see Simmons in practice drills) when you’ve got a player of that talent waiting, when you know he’s coming back, hopefully soon. He’s great and I can’t wait to play with him," said Embiid, who is averaging 19.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks as a rookie.
After Andrew Bogut (2005) and Kyrie Irving (2011), Simmons became only the third Aussie born player to be drafted No. 1 overall in the NBA when the Sixers chose him ahead of Duke's Brandon Ingram last June. Many analysts have compared Simmons to legendary names such as LeBron James and Magic Johnson.
Ben Simmons, 20, is also Philadelphia's first No. 1 pick since the franchise drafted Allen Iverson in 1996.