WASHINGTON - The most time Ben Simmons had spent on the road with the Sixers before fracturing his foot was a week at Stockton University for training camp. Being a bus ride from Philadelphia isn't exactly a replication of NBA travel.
Simmons has been joining the Sixers on away games since the start of the new year. This step in his rehab is just as much an opportunity for him to learn ins and outs of the road as it is for the Sixers to get a better sense of Simmons immersed in the team.
"The team having the ability to talk to him, bump shoulders with him, share ideas, be on buses, be on planes, it's just one other reminder that we're going to get better, we're going to have another player at some point," Brett Brown said. "The clarity, the direction of the program, the purpose of this year gets a little bit more defined when you can actually see him do some things, albeit in sort of a presence-type mode."
Life on the road isn't taught on basketball courts. The players have to be in the moment to understand everything that goes into preparing for and competing in a game away from their city.
"I think it's been healthy," Nerlens Noel said. "He's here and getting a chance to experience the NBA lifestyle on the road, all the rigors of how enduring it can be and what the preparation looks like. It's good for him to take it all in before he actually starts playing. He'll have a good base to know how to prepare himself."
Simmons has been participating in 5-on-0 drills. There is no timetable for his return. He has been with the team in the locker room, going through work on the court pregame and watching games from the sidelines.
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"For Ben it's the normal things," Brown said. "It's feeling the gyms. It's being a part of a scout tape … it's being on a bench and seeing referees, seeing players and watching how the different flow of a game is real. Starts of halves are different than starts of games.
"All those things, it all wraps up into being in the real-time learning instead at home on a couch thinking you can feel what really goes on in an NBA game. You can't. You need to be a part of this."