GALLOWAY, N.J. — 76ers fans won’t get to see their beloved Ben Simmons play until Nov. 11 — that’s if they’re lucky.
The first overall pick in the draft could be sidelined for up to eight weeks after an X-ray and MRI revealed a fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone of his right foot.
A league source believes the point forward has a zone 2 fracture, or what is commonly called a Jones fracture of the bone.
However, Sixers president Bryan Colangelo and coach Brett Brown could not be reached to confirm the extent of the injury Friday night. The team released a statement that read in part: “Further medical evaluation and treatment options are being considered at this time and additional updates will be provided when appropriate.”
Simmons rolled his right ankle during a training-camp scrimmage on Friday at Stockton University. At first, the injury was not thought to be serious. He left the gym to get imaging tests, which then revealed the break.
The source said the team was deciding whether Simmons should undergo surgery.
Assuming it is a non-significant Jones fracture, the injury is normally treated with a walking boot, a cast, or a splint for six to eight weeks. Rehabilitation may take an additional two to three weeks, meaning Simmons’ return date could be pushed back to late November or early December, barring any setbacks.
But that’s only if the fracture heals properly. Plus, there’s no telling how long Simmons would be out under these circumstances. The overly cautious Sixers have a history of keeping players sidelined long after their targeted return date.
The other types of fractures are zone 1 and zone 3.
Zone 1 fractures are commonly called “chip” fractures and occur at the tip of the base of the bone. These types of fractures are typically treated without needing surgery. The healing time is around six to eight weeks. Zone 3 fractures occur along the shaft of the fifth metatarsal. A long healing process and the risk of refracture are reasons for surgery.
A Jones fracture was diagnosed in Kevin Durant’s right foot before the start of the 2014-15 season. He made his debut on Dec. 2, 2014, after missing the first 16 games of the season.
The injury led him to have others injuries, which ultimately cut his season short.
He missed time later in December after injuring his ankle. Then he sprained his left big toe in January. On Feb. 22, he was sidelined after having a minor procedure to help reduce pain and discomfort in his surgically repaired foot. On March 27, he was ruled out for the rest of the season after deciding to undergo foot surgery.
Simmons suffered the injury when he landed on Shawn Long’s foot. He heard something pop and his foot started swelling later on. The Sixers thought he had originally rolled his ankle. Jones fractures are often mistaken for an ankle sprain and an avulsion or zone 1 fracture. That also takes six to eight weeks to heal.
No matter what, this is not good news for a franchise that’s coming off a 10-72 season and went 47-199 over the last three while tanking.
It’s possible Simmons could be out for an extended period, if not the season.
He becomes the Sixers’ fourth straight first-round acquisition to be sidelined with an injury in their rookie season.
Nerlens Noel, who was acquired in the 2013 draft, missed his first year because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament tear in his left knee. The following season, the Sixers made Joel Embiid the third overall pick. He has yet to play because of surgeries each of the last two summers to repair the navicular bone in his right foot. Then Jahlil Okafor, who was drafted third in 2015, had season-ending surgery on March 22 to repair the meniscus in his right knee. The injury cost the NBA all-rookie selection the final 23 games of the season. A CAT scan on March 8 revealed the tear.
Simmons will be a huge loss for the franchise trying to go into the second phase of its rebuilding project.
He averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.0 steals last season en route to being a consensus first-team all-American for Louisiana State last year.
Simmons had a solid training camp.
Coaches and players were all raving about his ability to get up and down the court at top speed. The Sixers were also impressed with how he was adjusting to playing off the ball. The offense ran through Simmons while he was at LSU and in high school.
As a result, he looked uncomfortable when someone else handled the ball for the Sixers during the summer leagues. So during training camp, the goal was to have him play several different positions. He lined up at point guard, shooting guard, small forward, and power forward. The Sixers even posted him up underneath the basket during late-game scenarios.
He has been able to do that better than the coaching staff anticipated. His physical presence while pushing tempo is what impressed center Joel Embiid the most. Simmons is 6-foot-10, 250 pounds and extremely fast for a man his size.
“I wouldn’t say he’s like LeBron (James), but he’s really physical. Like his physical body,” Embiid said. “He can really push the ball in transition and he’s just a big presence.
“When he pushes the ball, you can feel it. He makes me want to go with him.”
However, it appears that Simmons won’t be pushing the ball anytime soon.