At the start of training camp, Ben Simmons was nowhere to be found at the Sixers' practice facility in Camden, New Jersey. When the team hit the road for two preseason games, Simmons didn't travel. When they hosted two preseason games of their own in Philadelphia, the star guard wasn't in uniform or even in street clothes on the bench.
Simmons' expected holdout ended last Sunday as he returned to practice, but the All-Star guard was hardly a participant. As he was reportedly going through the motions and refusing to get engaged during practice, his head coach eventually grew fed up and booted him from a practice session nearly a week ago.
After missing the Sixers' season opener against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday due to a one-game suspension, Simmons skipped out on a private workout on Thursday as he was reportedly dealing with back stiffness.
Not too long after Simmons rejected a workout with Sixers personnel, the team's President of Basketball Operations, Daryl Morey, participated in a live on-air interview on 97.5 The Fanatic. That's when Morey made it clear that unless the Sixers receive a trade offer that nets them a "difference-maker," Simmons isn't going anywhere. And if the 76ers have to hold onto Ben Simmons for the next four years -- then so be it.
The following day, Simmons returned to the team's practice facility and addressed his teammates, coaches, and organization officials for the first time since his surprise return. That's when Simmons revealed he wasn't mentally ready to play for the Sixers again. While he wouldn't rule out a return in the future, the star guard made it clear he needs additional time off to get in the right headspace before returning to the court.
Later that day, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers and several players, including Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris, made it apparent that things are finally moving in the right direction when it comes to the Simmons saga. Then on Sunday night, Daryl Morey echoed a similar sentiment during an interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia's Amy Fadool.
"Ben came in at the end of last week and said he had back stiffness, and he's dealing with some personal reasons off the court," Morey explained. "Both [the Sixers] take very seriously. We're working with Ben to provide every resource to help him with what is needed. And he spoke to his teammates; things seem to be moving very much in a positive direction. We're gonna provide all the resources and get Ben what he needs and get him out there as soon as we can. We're taking it day-by-day, getting Ben what he needs. He'll probably be doing individual workouts while he works through this and working through everything that we can help him with and hope to get him back out there as soon as he's ready."
While the Sixers would probably still entertain offers that come in for Simmons throughout the year, it seems there's a much higher chance he suits up for the 76ers again before donning another team's uniform. There's no timetable for Simmons' return as the team takes everything day by day. However, the fact that Simmons and the organization are willing to move forward to try and fix the damage that's been done over the last few months is an excellent sign for a team that's made it clear they want the three-time All-Star back on the floor for them.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.