Ben Simmons will not play against Orlando on Saturday when the Magic visit Philadelphia.
After the Sixers’ 101-81 victory over Portland on Wednesday, Simmons noticed swelling in his left elbow. He is being treated and will be reevaluated Sunday. T.J. McConnell will start at point guard in Simmons’ absence.
Simmons, who is averaging 18.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists, and 2.1 steals, has not missed a game this season after a fracture in his right foot cost him the entire 2016-17 campaign.
“It changes a lot of things without Ben Simmons,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said after Friday’s practice. “It’s obviously highly impactful all over the place on both sides of the ball.”
The Sixers will face an Orlando team that is on a seven-game skid after Friday night’s loss to the Boston Celtics, and will be in Philadelphia on the second night of a back-to-back. Brown said he is confident in McConnell’s ability to step up with Simmons sidelined.
“He just continues to get better, and we’re always challenging him to take his natural enthusiasm and his passion and continue to polish his game,” Brown said. “Now is the time; he’ll come in and start out as point guard and there will be a lot of responsibility and opportunity given to him.”
According to the Sixers, Simmons’ injury occurred at the 6-minute, 22-second mark of the fourth quarter against Portland when he put up a shot after backing down Evan Turner. The injury does not seem serious, no X-rays were taken, and Simmons is expected to return to game play when the swelling has subsided and the range of motion in his elbow has returned.
“I can’t worry about trying to fill Ben’s shoes because that’s something I’m probably not able to do,” McConnell said. “We’ll be fine, and we’ll go out there and play hard like we always do.”
McConnell, who is averaging 6.5 points and 5.3 assists off the bench, has seen a dramatic increase in efficiency from three-point range this season. A career 31.2 percent shooter from three, McConnell is shooting at 53.8 percent from deep through 17 games this year.
“I know I haven’t taken many, but it’s good to see them go in,” McConnell said.
Without Simmons, more will be asked of Joel Embiid. It’s not surprising that the big man is not worried. After practice the big man said that Simmons will obviously be missed but that if the team sticks to the plan and plays the way the have been, then they’ll have no problem beating Orlando.
“I don’t think it matters because we already have the culture and we’ve just got to keep moving the ball,” Embiid said.
With LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers coming to town on Monday, it seems like a good sign that Simmons was not listed as out beyond Saturday’s game.