Ben Simmons (nerve impingement in lower back) will be re-evaluated in three weeks, the Sixers announced Wednesday.
The team said Simmons is progressing in his rehabilitation and is “gradually increasing the activities in his strength and conditioning program.”
Head coach Brett Brown said Simmons first injured his back at practice on Feb. 19 while going up for a rebound. Simmons missed the team’s first game after the All-Star break vs. the Nets, then played on Feb. 22 against the Bucks.
He left that game in the first quarter, seeming to be in discomfort after drawing a foul on Brook Lopez and jogging back to the locker room gingerly.
A two-time All-Star, Simmons is averaging 16.7 points, 8.2 assists and 7.8 rebounds this season. His 115 steals still lead the NBA.
The Sixers have gone 3-4 in Simmons' absence but have actually fared well offensively. Their 119.7 net rating is second-best in the league during that stretch. However, the team's 119.4 defensive rating over the past seven games is worst in the NBA.
Simmons' defensive versatility and ability to guard opposing stars is obviously very valuable, and the Sixers have missed him most on that end of the floor. He was in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation before the injury.
Without Simmons, Shake Milton has taken over as the team’s starting point guard and excelled in that role. Milton has posted 18.7 points and 4.4 assists per game since Simmons’ injury, shooting 62.2 percent from three-point range.
With 18 regular-season games left, the Sixers are sixth in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind the Pacers and three games back of the Heat. If Simmons was to return in exactly three weeks, he'd play in the team's final four regular-season games.
Josh Richardson is set to return tonight vs. the Pistons after missing the past three games while in concussion protocol. Joel Embiid (left shoulder sprain) is questionable.
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