SINCE THE HORRIFIC news for 76ers fans came down that rookie Ben Simmons had broken the fifth metatarsal in his right foot on the last day of training camp, the excitement and anticipation of the upcoming season has plummeted faster than Donald Trump's character.
Simmons had surgery Oct. 4, and while the team's statement following the surgery didn't specify whether a screw was set in place to heal the acute Jones fracture, that is the most common procedure. The team said it will give updates on Simmons "as available and when appropriate." Contacted Wednesday, the team would not confirm a screw was used.
"It is most common to put a screw to strengthen the bone and quicken recovery, which would normally be about eight weeks," said Dr. Daniel Farber, assistant professor of clinical orthopedic surgery at Penn Medicine, who has not treated Simmons for this injury. "It would be a more complex procedure if a plate and small screws were put in, which would make recovery a little longer, like 10 to 12 weeks before feeling comfortable letting him go. If you open up the site, you could decide to do bone graft or use bone simulating proteins. If they had to use a plate and screws, most likely the fracture was more fragmented."
Farber reiterated that all patients heal differently, and that Simmons could heal faster than expected.
Vaguely revealing injuries in a timely fashion and masking recovery plans and timetables has been a staple of the Sixers over the past few years, which is their prerogative, though it only fuels fans' frustration, which understandably would be sky-high after so many injuries have beset this team this season and the previous three.
So we will most likely be kept in the dark as far as players' recovery. Remember, we were told Jahlil Okafor had "minor" surgery to repair a torn right meniscus last March and would be back to basketball activities in six weeks, but here we are, 6 1/2 months later, and the knee has remained problematic. But there have been both blatant and cryptic signs of how some issues may play out this season.
Coach Brett Brown breaks down the 82-game season into thirds, with the first part from Opening Night to Christmas. The second third runs from Christmas to the All-Star break, and the final section runs from after the break to the end of the season. That breaks down this season to 30-, 26- and 26-game increments, so we'll try to forecast how it may play out, taking into account current injuries, progression of young players and all else that could come into play.
Oct. 26 to Dec. 23
30 games: 20 home, 10 away.
The mantra surrounding the team is that Brown and president Bryan Colangelo hope to "deliver them to Opening Night," a home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Oh, there will be players in uniform, probably the allotted 12 on the active roster that night. But there will certainly be a lot of caveats.
Brown said recently that he wanted to have Joel Embiid playing 20 to 24 minutes by Opening Night, and, so far this preseason, that appears to be a reachable goal, as Embiid is progressing well with his conditioning. But he hasn't played more than 14 minutes in a game yet, nor a second after halftime. So it's not etched in stone the 7-2 center will get there. There also has been talk that Embiid won't play in back-to-back games. In this first third of the season, the Sixers have six of those, Embiid could miss six of the first 30 games right off the bat. Not horrible, but certainly noteworthy. Brown also said he expects Okafor, who is probably the team's most consistent scorer, to be ready by Opening Night. Ready is one thing, how ready is another. Should he be ready for the opener, I would totally expect Okafor to be on a minute restriction, maybe for the first couple of weeks of the season, seven games.
The status of starting point guard Jerryd Bayless is still unknown, as he continues to recover from what the team has termed a sore right wrist. Bayless said last week he had an MRI, but hadn't heard a result, adding, "It's not the best right now." The team said Wednesday Bayless was still undergoing evaluation and treatment options, offering no news of the MRI results. It appears, however, that he will miss some significant time at the beginning of the season.
Though the schedule presents a luxury with such a home-loaded front third of the schedule, a slow start, yet again, seems likely.
Dec. 26 to Feb. 15
26 games: 17 away, nine home
This is where Brown hopes to have his team rounding into some kind of rhythm. He said last week that, because of all the injuries and time restrictions, he considers October to really be training camp. But that mindset might run even a bit longer with the organization's attention to caution when it comes to recovery.
By this time, the Sixers should hope that Embiid can comfortably play at least 25 minutes a night, maybe close to 30. Also, Brown should have seen enough of his bigs to have figured out what type of rotation works best, and Dario Saric should be somewhat acclimated to the NBA at this point.
But the team will endure a good portion of a trip out West during this period, as well as its toughest road trip of the season, with stops in Chicago, Dallas, San Antonio, Miami and Detroit. The nine games at Wells Fargo Center include matchups with tough Western Conference teams Portland, the Clippers, Houston and San Antonio.
Feb. 24 to April 12
26 games: 12 home, 14 away
While many had hoped, unrealistically, that this team could be a playoff contender before Simmons went down, it appears now that the final 26 games of the season will again be more of just playing out the schedule.
Brown has done a marvelous job of keeping his groups playing hard to finish out meaningless seasons, and that might be his job again this season. But the focus must continue to be on the development of players. The future, after all, is in the massive hands of Embiid and, eventually, Simmons. Perhaps we will get to see the 6-10 do-everything rookie during the final third of the season. If that's the case, while the record won't be so different from the previous three seasons, the atmosphere certainly will be.