2016 No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons hasn’t played a game yet due to a Jones fracture in his right foot. The injury was initially expected to sideline him three months, but the Philadelphia 76ers are naturally being extra cautious with their prized rookie (some people speculated right away he’d sit the whole season) and don’t currently have a timeline for his debut, although head coach Brett Brown said this week he expects Simmons to play this season.
Now, being cautious is totally fine, especially given the nature of this injury. Kevin Durant had a similar injury two seasons ago and wound up undergoing two more procedures after returning to the floor. But this extended absence has raised a few eyebrows, and now we get this report from Keith Pompey of the Philly Inquirer that Simmons’ foot may actually not be healed yet:
The first overall pick in last summer’s draft is scheduled to visit the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York as early as Monday to determine if his right foot is fully healed, according to multiple sources.
Sources said that a foot scan on Jan. 23 showed that his foot was not fully healed.
Simmons suffered a Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his right foot on Sept. 30, the final day of training camp. The January doctor’s visit revealed an inside portion of the bone wasn’t fully mended, according to sources.
While this is troublesome, it’s worth pointing out that Simmons is participating in on-court drills. So he’s still doing work on the court and apparently progressing, although he’s reportedly not participating in scrimmages over fear of making the injury worse. That’s definitely unfortunate, but there doesn’t appear to be anything nefarious going on.
Where this situation truly gets weird is when you go back and look at recent reporting of the injury…along with the Sixers’ own words on the matter.
On Jan. 19, several days before that Jan. 23 foot scan, ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported that Simmons’ hoot was fully healed:
During training camp, Simmons, 20, fractured the fifth metatarsal bone of his right foot and was ruled out indefinitely following surgery. His foot has completely healed, sources said.
Then there’s this from Sixers president Bryan Colangelo on Jan. 21:
Bryan Colangelo tells @CSNPhilly that Ben Simmons should be getting a final scan on Monday. No specific timetable, but return "soon enough."
— Brian Seltzer (@brianseltzer) January 22, 2017
That “final scan” was the Jan. 23 scan, and the Sixers released this information about the results on Jan. 24:
Simmons had planned scan in NY yesterday. Recovery progressing as expected, still no timetable for return to play.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) January 24, 2017
Ben Simmons’ regularly scheduled foot scan Monday at the Hospital of Special Surgery in New York showed he has healed and everything is fine, according to the 76ers.
The first overall pick in June’s NBA draft could make his Sixers debut in late February or early March. However, the team will say only that it isn’t rushing him back.
However, Tom Moore of Calkins Media said this about the “final scan” that apparently wasn’t a final scan:
Told wasn't a final scan, not that he didn't have one. https://t.co/rdFVkGzA7G
— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) January 24, 2017
So what in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here?
It’s obviously a big deal if Simmons’ foot didn’t heal as expected and there were setbacks, but the situation looks worse if the team actually lied about it. It’s even worse when this comes on the heels of the bizarre Jahlil Okafor trade situation and the handling of Joel Embiid’s torn meniscus.
Kyle Neubeck of Liberty Ballers didn’t mince his words when writing about how bizarre this all is:
There has been some debate about how to label the Sixers’ slow leak of information over the last month and a half. A lot of people have settled on “misleading” as a softer version of what they’ve been doing, but if this information is true, the Sixers are flat-out lying to the public. They lied to reporters, they lied to the fans, and they continued to double down on the initial lie in every conversation about Simmons following the scan.
Their motivation to do so is unclear beyond the hope that they’d use the No. 1 overall pick’s looming return to sell tickets. The team doesn’t gain any competitive advantage by pretending Simmons’ recovery wasn’t moving at the rate they’d hoped, and it looks like self-serving BS to preserve PR momentum during a fun stretch of basketball. Information was hidden, and doing so served no legitimate purpose.
Perhaps Simmons plays this season and all this blows over soon, but this isn’t a good look for Colangelo and the organization as a whole. They need to get their act together.
UPDATE: The Sixers released a statement from Colangelo on Thursday evening:
Sixers President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo issues the following statement in regards to Ben Simmons' injury recovery. pic.twitter.com/ZOVW01RhxC
— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) February 16, 2017
This very much sounds like Simmons won’t play this season, but stay tuned.