After holding out for training camp and the start of preseason, Ben Simmons decided to startle the Sixers with a surprise return to Wells Fargo Center on Monday. He’s now received his first COVID-19 test to follow NBA health and safety protocols, completed his physical on Tuesday, and will start working out in isolation with coaches on Wednesday.
The next question is will he actually play in games? Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer has confirmed in a new report that whether or not Simmons will play is still undetermined, although the Sixers (unsurprisingly) aren’t changing their stance that they want Simmons to play. This is the same message we’ve heard repeated by Doc Rivers and players alike over the last couple of weeks.
Even though Simmons’ playing status is still unclear, Fischer did share some new details on where the Sixers stand right now.
While Philly fans constantly booing Simmons at home games should be a guarantee, it’s also hard to see how his sudden return won’t be at all awkward or distracting for the team. Fischer also noted in his report that Doc Rivers “has never managed to build a strong rapport with Simmons.” The head coach spent most of last season singing Simmons’ praises and defending him from criticism (post Game 7 comments vs. Atlanta aside), and Simmons spoke highly of Rivers on plenty of occasions, too. There seemed to be a solid rapport there. No matter what their relationship was like before, though, it’s safe to say their relationship has soured now.
Fischer added that Daryl Morey has developed a stronger relationship with Joel Embiid as well. With Simmons seeking a fresh start elsewhere, tested relationships with his head coach and lead executive hardly help matters in Philly right now.
As for the matter of trading Simmons, Fischer reiterated that the Sixers are keeping their asking price high. Their sights are still set on stars like Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal, should such players become available.
Furthermore, it looks far more likely that a trade won’t happen until at least late December rather than the early weeks of the new season:
Philadelphia’s loftier sights remain set on Lillard and Bradley Beal possibly growing dissatisfied in Portland and Washington, respectively, sources said. A far larger pool of players also become trade-eligible on December 15, then incorporating most of the newly-signed players from this past offseason. It seems the chances of any Simmons trade, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, will grow significantly larger in late December than anytime soon, barring any change in a rival team’s circumstances.
If you’re eager for the Simmons trade to happen, you’ll probably be waiting for quite a while.
Throughout this entire saga, it’s been clear that the Sixers aren’t going to rush to lower their asking price. Morey will remain patient until he finds the best possible return he can, and it’s not too surprising that a trade could take this long. There was always a good chance that waiting until December 15 so more players who signed free agent deals this offseason could be involved, too. This could make it easier to add in complementary players and match salaries in what could easily be a three-team trade.
As for potential trade partners, there isn’t too much new information on that front. Fischer mentioned the Cavaliers, Rockets, Pacers, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Kings, Spurs, Raptors, and Pistons as the most recently interested teams.
Fischer noted a couple of details relating to where some of these teams stand in their offers. The Pistons would “entertain” trading Jerami Grant for Simmons, the Sixers don’t seem interested in a Spurs package including Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV (which is fair enough), and the Kings aren’t discussing any deals that include either De’Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton.
In other words, teams clearly aren’t giving the Sixers the kind of star return they’re after, and aren’t willing to up their offers to meet Philly’s demands right now. As Fischer reiterated, no team has come close to that asking price.
If too much time passes, the Sixers may just need to accept that their asking price will have to be lowered somewhat. The trade market may never reach a point with the kind of offers or star availability that they’re hoping for. But, at least for now, Philly is staying patient.
Fischer did also report that there has been a “10th ‘mystery’ franchise that has held substantial trade conversations with Philadelphia of late.” Not even members of Klutch Sports are clear who this team is, though. It will be interesting to monitor this in the coming days and weeks to see who this franchise actually is and what they may be willing to offer.
Ultimately, Fischer explained just how little trade conversations with the Sixers have progressed so far:
If it takes five steps for two teams to complete a trade, it’s been described to B/R that no conversation with Philadelphia has truly advanced past step one. Few talks actually generated formal offers, and Philadelphia has informed most teams their best path to acquiring Simmons is in a three-team structure, sources said.
The Cavaliers and Timberwolves, for example, have largely made pick-heavy overtures that Philadelphia has urged Cleveland and Minnesota to bring to teams with specific All-Star-caliber players the Sixers actually covet.
Make sure you read Fischer’s full report so you don’t miss any nuggets of info.
It looks like the Simmons saga will continue for a while yet. With a trade seemingly a long way off, for now the focus is waiting to see if the Sixers can get Simmons to play as intended, and how that shakes out on the court and in the locker room.
This will be... interesting.