76ers' Ben Simmons: 'I'm feeling better than I was when I started the season'

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Ben Simmons says that not only has his back injury healed, he feels better than he did at the start of the NBA season and is ready to fully participate in practice and play in games when the season resumes later this month.

"I'm feeling better than I was when I started the season," the Philadelphia 76ers star said on a conference call Thursday afternoon. "But I've been working since I had the injury, working 'til now to prepare for whatever happens, wherever we go.

"So I'm feeling great, I've been rehabbing this whole time, so I'm feeling ready. And I'm feeling very comfortable."

Simmons, who finished a workout just prior to speaking to reporters, hasn't played in a game since Feb. 22, when he hurt his back in the first quarter of a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks and didn't return.

Simmons was one of several players around the league, including New Orleans Pelicans phenom Zion Williamson, who was allowed to continue working with trainers at the team's practice facility during the league's shutdown in order to make sure his rehab went along as scheduled.

Once he got clearance to begin his rehab, he said that's what he was doing every day in order to try to be ready for a season restart.

Along the way, Simmons said he's added muscle and is doing Pilates "almost every day," along with lifting weights to get his body ready to play. He said the added muscle -- which he called a "resetting point" that isn't possible during a normal 82-game season -- allowed him to feel more explosive than he was before.

"More explosive, definitely, but [also] more control," he said. "I feel a lot more control when I'm out there on the floor, and I know what I'm capable of with my body and it just feels very good and overall I feel like I'm back to 100 percent, and it's a good feeling."

Simmons last met with the media right before the season shut down in March. At that point, it was unclear whether he would have been able to play in the playoffs had the season progressed as scheduled.

When asked about that Thursday, Simmons again declined to answer.

"No idea," Simmons said. "I'd be able to tell you if we got there, but I was at a point where I was feeling comfortable with getting back on the floor. But it also was a different type of pace to a workout, so it's really hard to judge. But I felt very good. I felt like I was ready. But this extra window of time, it's a blessing that comes with everything going on, but I'm using it to my full advantage to get back out there, so I'm ready to go."

Simmons also said he's fully ready for the NBA's bubble environment in Orlando, Florida, and all of the restrictions that come with it. He said he trusts not only the NBA but veteran players like National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul and LeBron James to put the players in the best possible position to stay healthy and complete the season.

"I trust in the NBA and in those older vets like Bron and like CP3 who are ready to go down there," Simmons said. "Also, this is our job. I believe strongly that personally, I don't have any problems with people who want to sit out. Everybody's personal stuff is different, so I can't speak on anybody else, but personally for me I want to get out there and play.

"Wherever my team is, I feel like it's my responsibility to go down there and represent Philadelphia in the highest way possible, and I think this is the right way to do it. If we're safe down there, and I trust in what the NBA is doing, and they're taking extreme precautions with this. So I feel like if we're all going, I'm in. I'm with my teammates and I never would want them to go down and not expect to see me there. So I'm all-in with my team."

It's been a confusing season for the Sixers, who entered it as co-favorites with the Bucks to make it out of the conference and to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2001. Instead, Philadelphia struggled to live up to those expectations -- largely due to a 10-24 road record, easily the worst of any of the current 16 playoff teams.

The Sixers will enter the restart tied for fifth place in the East with the Indiana Pacers -- their opponent in the first game they will play at the NBA's campus at Walt Disney World. But Simmons says the Sixers aren't thinking about what people outside the team are saying about them and instead are focused on the opportunity to have the kind of finish to their season they hoped for in October.

"We have our team," Simmons said. "We've got to get ready. We have to focus on ourselves and get ready to compete. We've beaten the best teams in the league, so we're ready to compete. We're a young, healthy team right now, so we're looking forward to this opportunity to grab this opportunity and go all the way. We're not going to go out there doubting ourselves. We know what we're capable of."