Ben Simmons spent the majority of the offseason holding out in the hopes that he could force a trade away from the Philadelphia 76ers, but the three-time All-Star eventually relented and returned to the team. Now that he has cleared the NBA's COVID-19 protocols, he is eligible to return to the floor for Philadelphia, and he did just that on Sunday when he practiced with the team for the first time since his trade request. As awkward as the situation might have been, the team was happy to have him back.
"We're grown men here," Tobias Harris told reporters. "This is not middle school, seventh grade, eighth grade, 'Oh you did this to me.' No. It's, as soon as we step on that floor it's just basketball. Honestly, that's the way it should be."
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While Simmons was able to practice with the team on Sunday, 76ers head coach Doc Rivers would not offer specifics on his return to game action. "Conditioning, just watching him, I thought he was in decent shape," Rivers said. "He's still not obviously game shape because you can do all the stuff, but overall, yeah … when he's ready, he'll play."
Philadelphia opens its season against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, and while it isn't clear whether or not Simmons will play, the 76ers need him to return to the floor eventually if they are going to salvage this season. After spending the offseason trying and failing to trade him for a superstar, Philadelphia's options moving forward are limited.
The 76ers could deal him for a package they don't currently find satisfactory, but at this stage, that appears unlikely. That means that their only choice for now is to play him and hope that he either eventually warms up to the idea of remaining with the 76ers or that seeing him on the court again increases his trade value enough to net a satisfactory return. The situation remains volatile, but for now, getting Simmons back on the floor is in everybody's best interest.