Sixers' Joel Embiid starts light, non-contact conditioning; Ben Simmons exceeding even Brett Brown's expectations

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Sixers’ center Joel Embiid is onto the next step of his recovery process from a concussion and a broken left orbital bone.

Joel Embiid was cleared to begin light, non-contact cardiovascular exercise this weekend.

The 76ers center still has several steps to complete in the NBA concussion protocol before resuming all-out activities. Saturday was a good start, as Embiid worked out symptom-free on an exercise bike at the team’s practice facility in Camden.

The all-star has been sidelined since suffering a fractured orbital bone near his left eye and a concussion against the New York Knicks on March 28. He had surgery on March 31. That team has not given an official time line for Embiid’s return or determination on his exact availability.  The recovery time for his injury is usually two to four weeks.  However, the hope is that he’ll be available to play at some point during the first round of the playoffs.

Sunday’s 109-97 victory over the Dallas Mavericks at the Wells Fargo Center marked the sixth game he’s missed.

Being free of concussion symptoms since March 29, Embiid would probably be back on the court already if not for the fracture. However, the surgery and necessary recovery time delayed his participation in the concussion protocol.

Done with the exercise bike test, Embiid  is cleared to go the next stage, which is working out on a treadmill or doing light cardio. If he’s symptom-free from there, he can resume on-court activities without contact before moving on. So there are a couple of stages he must hit before playing in a game. The Sixers are confident he’ll reach those stages.

Simmons exceeds Brown’s expectations

Brett Brown deserves some credit for envisioning Ben Simmons as a point guard. However, the Sixers coach is honest.

“He has exceeded for me all of the expectations that I had for him,” Brown said Sunday. “I feel like I said many times, I hope when we all sort of go our own separate ways and get old, he looks back and is proud that I gave him the ball.”

How could he not be?

The former ball-handling power forward or point forward is averaging 16.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game. The rookie of the year front-runner recorded 12 triple-doubles this season. He’s also averaging a triple-double during the Sixers’ current 14-game win streak with 14.7 points, 10.1 rebounds and 10.9 assists.

“The mindset that he has, the inner confidence and inner peace that he has — that doesn’t let him get rattled or distracted much,” Brown said. “Talk about the continued growth of the intellectual side of what is a point guard.”

Brown said he questioned Simmons about his desire to play the position while he missed the 2016-17 season with a broken foot.

“You really want to be a point guard, really?” Brown recalled asking. “A point guard? You really want to be a point guard, and the stuff that goes with being a point guard?

“And he would look at me and he would understand where I’m going.”

Still, Simmons is only scratching the surface of his potential. He shies away from shooting three-pointers in games and needs to work on his foul shooting.  He has shot only 56.3 percent from the foul line.

But his athleticism, speed, and vision enable him to excel at the position.