Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers and the team he led to the best record in the Eastern Conference last season put their hands together in the middle of a huddle at the end of practice and counted off, “1-2-3! Together!”
Lingering outside the huddle, holding a basketball and looking uninterested was the $147 million puzzle piece in Ben Simmons. With Simmons focused and engaged, the Sixers are again a team to beat in the East this season.
But the Sixers open the season Wednesday in New Orleans with no guarantee that Simmons will play. He has practiced twice with the Sixers since ending his holdout. Meanwhile, the Sixers hold out hope the three-time All-Star guard wants to suit up again.
Simmons has dominated the headlines in Philadelphia since his baffling offseason trade request and then mystifying decision to report, showing up without warning last week.
He declined to talk to the media for the second straight practice on Monday -- the Sixers say he’s scheduled for Tuesday -- and maybe then he can start to explain why he wanted out of Philadelphia. And now that he’s back, how long does he plan to stay.