The specter of this saga haunts Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers

Ben Simmons is no closer to returning to the Philadelphia 76ers after requesting a trade last summer. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

ON ANOTHER NIGHT, in another context, the sight of Ben Simmons working out after hours at the Philadelphia 76ers' practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, wouldn't be of note.

Simmons lives about 15 minutes away from the team's headquarters, and as a member of the team he's free to work out there any time he wants.

But this was not just any night. This was a game night, and the Sixers were in the midst of an important homestand at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. But instead of being on the court with his teammates as they went 12-3 in January and rose to within half a game of first place in the Eastern Conference, Simmons was 20 minutes away, working out with his personal team of trainers, trying to stay ready in case he is traded to a new team.

By all accounts, he is in great physical shape. But according to sources close to Simmons and within the Sixers organization, he continues to tell the team and those who represent him that he is not mentally ready to get back on the court again. Not now and not ever in Philadelphia.

It has been seven months since he asked the Sixers to explore a trade for him and nearly four months since he returned to Philadelphia. He has not meaningfully participated in a practice or even a film session since. He has just been there: in body but never in spirit.

He has worked out separately with his own group of trainers, according to sources close to Simmons. He has organized his own runs with local players. He has lifted weights at a local fitness club that's open to the general public. He has seen his own therapist but hasn't shared information about his treatment with the team. He's living in the Moorestown, New Jersey, house he put up for sale months ago.

Everything he has done has been apart from the Sixers. But now, just under two weeks before the Feb. 10 trade deadline, Ben Simmons is working out at the facility again. There is no ulterior motive. When it's empty, the Sixers' practice court is probably the safest place for Simmons. Every other location where he has trained eventually gets leaked. And until he is traded, those close to him say he wants no attention. No cell phone cameras. No crowds.

The most recent event that pushed him back to the Sixers' facility, a source says, was when a photo of him playing in a 5-on-5 run with local guys and former NBA players like Dion Waiters and Dionte Christmas at Cherry Hill High School East (New Jersey) was posted on social media.

The image did not go viral. It was just in the Instagram stories of a former Temple University player named Semaj Inge, who has 3,187 followers.

But Simmons saw it and knew it was only a matter of time before he'd be scrutinized again by the curious or the circus.

WHEN THIS SCHISM began last summer, no one on either side thought it would last this long or cost each side as much as it has.