Ben Simmons surprised the Philadelphia 76ers by showing up. The two parties have obvious and public problems contributing to a fractured relationship. Simmons' camp has not been shy about being honest in his relative disinterest in playing for the team, and yet there he is with basketball shoes and ready to put in some work. There are two ways of looking at the development.
The first is that it's a huge win for the Sixers. Losing such a uniquely talented player, even with his painful drawbacks, for pennies on the dollar or at the detriment of roster flexibility is never ideal. Simmons is not yet a lost cause and there are plenty of pundits out there who will tell you he can be a major factor on a championship-level team. The franchise has spent many years and many millions in the hope it comes with them.
The second way to process it is to realize it's just the first step in a long journey to redemption. This morning on First Things First, Chris Broussard started at square one, which is identifying Simmons' intentions. It's not a given that the goal is to play winning basketball. There are negotiating tactics he can employ to force the front-office's hand that he can't do remotely.
It's not fair to criticize someone for what you think they'll do in the future. At the same time, in this case it's extremely prudent to keep an eye on it. Because when there's this much friction in a marriage, the fights tend not to stop cold turkey with a single apology and act of service.
That's not even mentioning the original problem — Simmons' inability to knock down or even attempt shots from any type of distance. Short offseason clips of him putting in the work are largely worthless and we should be able to tell immediately if there's been any meaningful progress in that area. If the early returns clearly show he's the same player with the same issues, then Philadelphia is no closer to solving its enormous puzzle.
One thing is clear: Simmons is entering the year with major pressure and major opportunity to change his narrative. Showing up is an important opening chapter. But there are plenty of twists and turns to come.