The 76ers had already been struggling to find consistency within the NBA's "bubble," and now they will be missing one of their top players for an extended period.
Ben Simmons is out indefinitely after suffering a knee injury during Wednesday's game between the Sixers and Wizards. Philadelphia has already clinched a playoff berth, but with Simmons likely unavailable to play until later rounds (if at all), a season that began with championship aspirations may end earlier than expected.
What's next for the two-time All-Star? Here's everything we know about Simmons' injury and the latest news on when he may return to the court.
What is Ben Simmons' injury?
Simmons suffered a subluxation, or partial dislocation, of his left patella, which is different than a full kneecap dislocation.
From injury expert Jeff Stotts of InStreetClothes.com:
If the patella quickly returns to alignment the injury is diagnosed as a subluxation. If the kneecap stays displaced for an extended period of time, it is classified as a dislocation and often requires medical care to return it to its normal positioning.
The biggest issue following these types of injuries usually depends on the amount of damage sustained by the stabilizing structures in the area. The patella is equipped with ligaments that help hold it in place, but a subluxation can result in tearing of these structures. Cartilage damage can also occur. Fortunately, an MRI on Simmons was reportedly clean, suggesting these structures remain intact.
The injury appeared to occur after Simmons grabbed an offensive rebound during the third quarter of the Sixers' win over the Wizards. Simmons snagged the ball, dribbled out to the perimeter and threw an entry pass to Al Horford. He then flexed his leg before walking off the floor.
Ben Simmons limped off the court and went straight to the locker room pic.twitter.com/G9jmjIy40Q— gifdsports (@gifdsports) August 5, 2020
There was no pain or swelling in Simmons' knee after he left the court, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
How long will Ben Simmons be out?
Simmons will leave the NBA's campus to undergo surgery on his left knee, according to Wojnarowski.
It's unclear exactly how long Simmons will be sidelined, but Wojnarowski reports it would take a deep playoff run for the 76ers to consider a return.
While the Sixers haven't ruled Simmons out for the season, sources say it would take a deep run into the playoffs to keep the door open on the possibility of a return --- and that's still an iffy proposition. For now, the Sixers need to prepare for a postseason without Simmons.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 8, 2020
Simmons is a huge part of the Sixers' future, so the team will not rush him back if there is potential for him to reinjure the knee.
What's next for the 76ers?
Philadelphia is currently the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, but it does have a chance to move ahead of the Pacers (No. 5) and Heat (No. 4). The 76ers play the Trail Blazers, Suns, Raptors and Rockets to finish the regular season.
In the short-term, Sixers coach Brett Brown is leaning toward pairing Horford and Joel Embiid together more frequently. Simmons had been starting at the power forward spot with Horford coming off the bench.
"If I had to tilt one way or another, I will pair them," Brown said (via ESPN's Tim Bontemps). "I think there are ways, I'm not saying you can do it all, but we've played around in game planning and spitballed what this actually looks like now. If you made me weigh one area or the other, I would pair them."
The biggest issue remains how the Sixers can survive when Embiid sits. In four "bubble" games with the 26-year-old on the floor, Philly has a net rating of plus-6.7. That number drops to minus-14.8 when he hits the bench. Minutes without Embiid and Simmons could be a disaster.
No matter how creative Brown gets with his rotations, he won't be able to replace Simmons' two-way excellence. This simply isn't the same team without him in the lineup.