Ben Simmons, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, made an appearance at Philadelphia 76ers practice on Tuesday. He was not wearing a boot on the foot he broke in training camp. He took some free throws and went over some plays with coach Brett Brown. According to Brown, this was a "significant" step.
"He walked out on the court in sneakers," described Brown, "and he shot free throws. So, that is significant to me. You're like, I got yah. Here we go."
Since Simmons began rehabbing in earnest roughly two months ago, Brown has conducted comprehensive one-on-one tutoring sessions with the LSU product in his office in Camden. In addition to reviewing video footage with Simmons, Brown also peppers Simmons with questions.
Tuesday, Brown gave the rookie his first formal positional exam. Pen and paper were required.
"We took him through, Here, you got the ball, you're the point guard," said Brown. "What do you see? What do you do? What do I call this? What are the reads? What can he do?
"We went through that for a half an hour [Tuesday] morning."
Up until recently, Simmons, on top of the walking boot, needed to rely on a manual scooter to get himself around, so that he could avoid bearing weight on his foot.
"There was nothing really that he's wheeling," Brown said Tuesday. "He walked across and sat in my office, and I just watched him shoot free throws. You see him in a film session. He's moving. We're all going to be just extremely careful - everybody needs to hear that, and we know that. We're going to be extremely careful with how his progression into the team goes."
It's normally not news when someone shoots some free throws, but this isn't a normal situation. No team has a worse record than the 6-18 Sixers, and while Joel Embiid has been everything they hoped he would be, they are eagerly awaiting Simmons' return. Brown said earlier this month that the 6-foot-10 playmaker will immediately become Philadelphia's point guard when he makes his NBA debut.
The question, of course, is when we can expect to see that debut. In October, Brown said it would happen in January, but he later said that he misspoke. Everyone in the organization continues to say publicly that there is no timetable for his return.