Each step Ben Simmons takes, regardless of how big or small it is in the scheme of his rehab, is a significant moment for Brett Brown.
Watching Simmons play one-on-one against D-League affiliate forward James Webb at "80 percent" this past weekend got Brown's mind racing. Even though the Sixers' coach tempered this on-court activity as "very slow, nothing to get excited about," the fact Simmons was going through this work in any capacity was meaningful.
"If you said it's 20 percent, 10 percent I'd get thrilled," Brown said. "I can't wait to coach him. I really can't wait to coach him."
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Simmons underwent a scheduled scan in New York with the operating specialist on Monday. The results revealed he is recovering as expected, the Sixers announced. There still is no timetable for his return or when he will be cleared for five-on-five full contact.
Simmons suffered a fracture in his right foot during training camp. He has been going through five-on-none work with the Sixers.
"It's all nice and slow," Brown said. "It's not dramatic. (Playing one-on-one) is not anything that people should read into that here he is, it's not that. It's slowly building him up very cautiously to a point where we can welcome him back legitimately to the team."
The Sixers have kept Simmons engaged in multiple aspects of the game so he will be best prepared when he returns. They have been following a rehab program based on education, health and shot improvement. Simmons has been watching games from the bench and has been joining the team on some road trips since the start of the new year.
"We're drip feeding this slowly," Brown said. "We're very cautious, but I think it's meticulous. I think it's very, very well planned out so that when he does come back it's not just hit with a bunch of new things. I feel like there's a classroom, physical, skill thing that we've morphed into a really tight four months since he's been out. We'll walk it down, but it's not like we're going to be cramming a week before whenever they tell us he's ready."
Brown cited his long-standing relationship with Simmons' family as an extra layer of eagerness. He coached Simmons' father in Australia during the late 1980s and is looking forward to working with the next generation.
Then of course there is the pure talent level of the No. 1 pick that makes the prospect of coaching him more enticing.
"To see brief little things that he does, gift-wise, skill-wise on the court, you get excited for many different reasons and your mind wanders in different directions," Brown said. "He's ours and I think probably the city feels like I do. We're really excited to get him in a uniform and watch him play basketball."