The Ben Simmons-76ers stalemate marches on. At times it feels as if the more twists and turns we get in this saga the more things ultimately stay the same.
Simmons would love to be traded. The Sixers would love to honor his request...if and only if they could return a true difference maker in return for the three-time All-Star. That type of blockbuster (which might theoretically land Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal) isn’t currently on the table. The Sixers are 1-0 and set to face the Nets on Friday in their home opener. But it doesn’t sound like (shocker) Simmons, who was suspended for “conduct detrimental to the team” for the game in New Orleans Wednesday, will be in the lineup for the next contest either.
We received a few updates Thursday. The first from “The Athletic’s” Shams Charania:
Sources: 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons is currently not mentally ready to play for the team and was receiving treatment on his back today due to ramp up process. He will miss Friday’s home opener vs. Nets and is not expected to play for an undetermined period of time.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 21, 2021
Simmons not playing for an “undetermined period of time” is a bit ominous. How long could this drag on without resolution? Will either side ever blink?
If your suspicious-meter went off hearing that Simmons received treatment for a back issue, you’re probably not alone. Recall, at the beginning of October we read speculation by former Liberty Baller, now with Bleacher Report, Jake Fischer, that Simmons could report to market while “maintaining that he is injured:”
The Sixers will indeed not pay Ben Simmons the 25% of his salary due today, according to league sources. And there are now growing whispers that Simmons could respond by actually reporting to Philadelphia, albeit maintaining that he is injured: https://t.co/qFpQ8tykZq— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) October 1, 2021
Is that what’s happening? Is this some way Simmons might get to holdout while collecting game checks?
Then ESPN Insider Adrian Wojnarowski weighed in with an update of his own:
All-Star guard Ben Simmons is expected to come early to the 76ers shootaround on Friday morning to discuss his playing status with organizational leadership, sources tell ESPN. Sixers play the Nets on ESPN and team is still hopeful that Simmons will participate in shootaround.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 21, 2021
Who Woj might mean when he discusses Simmons meeting with “organizational leadership” is interesting. One would think this means Daryl Morey, Elton Brand, Doc Rivers, perhaps other front office members. Would it mean managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer? My hunch is they have given Morey the room to handle this. What is there even left to say?
The next turn came from local radio. We heard from Morey, via 97.5’s Mike Missanelli:
Daryl Morey on @MikeMiss25: “People should buckle in.” Says the team can only get role players in a trade now, will only trade him for a difference maker.— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) October 21, 2021
“What’s our best chance to win a championship? Right now it’s re-integrating Ben Simmons to our time.”
Transcribed by a pair of former Liberty Ballers in Rich Hofmann and Derek Bodner, Morey made clear that the team was prepared to ride this out for the long-haul:
Morey on his timeline: "You're going to think I'm kidding, I'm not. This could (go on for) 4 years. ... We're in the prime of Joel's career...Either Ben Simmons is playing for us, or we have to get back a difference maker."— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) October 21, 2021
We knew the team did not have any current trade offers they liked. We knew the team wanted to remain title contenders in the event of any potential trade (something that is likely not possible in popular “step trade” proposals returning draft picks). But hearing or reading Morey talk about “buckling in” and this possibly going on for “four years” is a strong public response to recent attempts at gaining leverage by Simmons’ camp.
It could be said Morey is attempting to manage fan expectations during a tumultuous time, something Sam Hinkie was once criticized for not doing enough of. At the same time he might be speaking to both Klutch and other NBA teams sending the message “we’re prepared for whatever comes so don’t bully or low-ball us.” Whether or not the Sixers truly do expect Simmons to play and play hard is an intriguing element here. It feels farfetched at the moment but the moment keeps changing. We’ve all seen weirder things happen. The home run scenario here does involve convincing Simmons to play. But for now, the more updates we get, the more things stay the same in this stalemate.
One and oh baby. Currently undefeated.