After weeks with no real movement on the Ben Simmons situation, Monday’s flurry of news may have been the most progress since a trade was originally requested.
Monday morning, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Simmons and his agent, Rich Paul, were working with the Sixers to get the three-time All-Star back to Philadelphia.
Apparently, that resolution was reached before the Sixers and Nets tipped for a preseason game at Wells Fargo Center Monday night.
Sixers are hopeful to start moving toward the next steps of a return with Simmons, per sources. Organization wants him back on the court once he clears protocols, but that remains to be seen. https://t.co/4Zc3gUp50R— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 12, 2021
Doc Rivers, who was busy coaching a basketball game, apparently didn’t have his Woj tweet notifications set.
“Yeah, it sounds like [Simmons is in Philadelphia],” Rivers said. “I think he did his COVID tests from reports, from Woj. I’m going to call Woj and find out what’s going on. But it seems like [Simmons will return to practice], which is good.”
Before the game, Rivers was asked about Simmons returning and reiterated his initial stance.
“We said from day one what we wanted. We’d love to get him back,” Rivers said. “Our position hasn’t changed at all.”
So, what changed on Simmons’ end?
“Our conversations have been good throughout, honestly. I don’t know that anything has changed, but we’ve had very good conversations.”
As far as the players in the locker room, there’s been no indication, at least publicly, there would be any issues. Since media day, up until Monday night, any players asked about the situation have been steadfast in saying they’d like Simmons to return.
Joel Embiid, whose relationship with Simmons appears murkier than others on the team, made clear again he wants his long-time teammate back.
“Personally, I haven’t talked to him since the season ended,” Embiid said. “Obviously, I tried and it wasn’t successful, as a lot of my teammates [were]. Like I said, it’s unfortunate the whole situation happened, but like I said, we’re a better team with him on the floor.
“I think there’s going to be some adjustments. It doesn’t need to be awkward. We are professionals. We want to win. I want to win. It gives me the best chance to win, so that’s what I’m gonna go with. But as far as coming back and all that, we’ve made a few adjustments and he’s just got to come in and buy in, and we’re going to be fine.”
For the most part, those adjustments should suit Simmons well. It’s clear the Sixers want to take more threes this season. While Simmons doesn’t take them, he does generate an awful lot of them. After the team’s Blue x White scrimmage in Delaware last Saturday, Rivers also mentioned that he envisioned lineups with Simmons at the five, playing next to Tobias Harris and newcomer Georges Niang.
Rivers has also stressed ball movement and cutting during camp and preseason. That could theoretically help Simmons’ game, especially if he’s playing with better passers like Niang and Andre Drummond. But if Simmons is still unwilling to shoot, it could complicate matters.
In any case, the Sixers are undoubtedly better off with Simmons.
“It’s good for the organization,” Embiid said. “It’s something that everybody wanted. I’ve always said that I believe he gives us the best chance to win. We’re a better team with him than without him, that’s for sure. So, I’m happy that things have resolved and we can move on and try to be a better team.”
So, the roughly $33 million question remains: Is Ben Simmons reporting to the Sixers to play?
“I’m not going to talk about what Rich and I have talked about,” Rivers said pregame, “but clearly, that’s what we want. We wouldn’t be talking if [Simmons playing] wasn’t part of it.”
Rivers couldn’t remember a time as a coach when he had a player hold out like this.
But he did remember a time when he was a player: his own holdout during his lone season with the Clippers in 1991.
When he eventually reported to his team, everything was smoothed over quickly.
“Other than that first 10 minutes of welcoming back and taking crap from your teammates about missing camp and stuff, guys want to win, especially if you’re on that kind of team when you have a chance to win,” he said. “They want to win and they look at Ben as a guy that can help them do that.”