Ben Simmons is leaving the Disney bubble to have surgery on his left knee, the 76ers announced Saturday, via ESPN. The surgery’s aim is to remove a loose body from Simmons’ left knee after he suffered a partially dislocated kneecap against the Washington Wizards earlier in the week. The 76ers have not ruled out a return by Simmons, but they will likely have to move forward without their young All-Star, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The injury to Simmons occurred late in the third quarter of Philadelphia’s contest against the Wizards. Simmons grabbed an offensive rebound, dribbled out to the corner, and dumped the ball down to Al Horford in the post. Horford was called for an offensive foul on the play, and after the whistle, Simmons started flexing his leg, and then checked himself out of the game. He then made his way to the locker room, followed by Sixers GM Elton Brand.
The injury is obviously a tough blow for Simmons, especially considering the fact that he worked extremely hard while the season was suspended to ensure that he was able to return to action for his team. Back in February, prior to the league’s shut down, Simmons was sidelined with nerve impingement in his lower back. At the time, it wasn’t clear when he was going to be able to return during the season. However, the league’s four-plus month hiatus provided Simmons with ample recovery time.
At his best Simmons is a nightly triple-double threat and one of the best defenders in the entire NBA, and the Sixers likely needed that player to go on a deep playoff run. The Sixers beat the Wizards on Wednesday to move to 41-27, and 2-1 inside the bubble. They are currently tied with the Indiana Pacers in the standings, but the Pacers functionally have a one-game lead thanks to their tiebreaker. That makes it likely that Philadelphia will play Boston, the No. 3 seed, in the first round.
The matchup has worked in their favor this season, with Joel Embiid destroying the smaller Celtics, but Simmons made quite a difference in that matchup as well. Now that he is out, the spotlight will be on Embiid to prove that he can carry the 76ers. If he can’t, Brett Brown’s already precarious situation could finally boil over. Reports all season have suggested that he needs a strong showing in the playoffs to keep his job. That just got a whole lot harder with this Simmons news.