Allow me to set the scene. It was Thursday night. I had just begun to digest a reheated sweet potato / wild rice burger I’d shared with my devoted girlfriend Gabrielle (brag), curled up on the couch next to her and our foster dog Rosco — a beguiling mix between an English Bulldog and Dalmatian whom we’re already heartbroken to not keep — as I surreptitiously snuck a peak at some first-half action between the intrepid, short-handed Sixers and the ever-annoying Toronto Raptors via the MyTeams app (Survivor occupying the TV screen, at the moment). Just then, a third of my iPhone 7 (second brag) screen was obstructed by one of the most feared push notifications known to man, woman, or Delaware-county-dwelling-child: The Athletic’s Shams Charania had a new (and somehow even worse) update on the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, inescapable saga between Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers.
If you’re here, you know the update. But in short: Simmons’ super-agent Rich Paul went on the record to Charania, alleging that, among other things, the Sixers are furthering the mental health issues Simmons is facing by way of the “fines, the targeting, the negative publicity” carried out through the media in recent weeks and months. There’s much more in the piece, as Paul spoke at great length on the topic. But this was, in essence, just another in the long line of leverage plays from Simmons’ and the Sixers’ camps, who have volleyed back and forth for nearly six months now as Simmons has been angling for a trade out of Philadelphia. The fact that Paul went so boldly and so baldly on the record discussing this issue and questioning the Sixers’ handling of the situation does tint this particular update with an ugliness uniquely its own.
I care not to dive into the specifics of how exactly we got here, or to parse the validity of this or any particular report, and I also certainly won’t be speculating on the status of the behind-the-scenes discussions re: Ben Simmons’ mental health.
But I do think that we have enough data at this point in the ill-fated saga of Ben & the Sixers that one thing is clear: Daryl Morey and the Sixers’ summertime wish that Simmons would be a good soldier, show up to the facility, give it the old college try, play as hard as he can, rehabilitate his trade value and then become the belle of the ball on the trade market again is a fantasy. It is detached from reality. I fully understand why Morey, Doc Rivers and company made every effort to force Ben (a 25-year-old with four years remaining on a max contract) to show up to work, and then stopped paying him when he refused to show up to work. And Paul and Simmons clearly were all talk throughout the summer, as they leaked bluster-filled reports to journalists about how a young, wealthy socialite like Simmons doesn’t mind forfeiting a cool $30 mil this year if it means hightailing it out of Philadelphia. I understand the precedent aspect of this situation for #ThisLeague at large: Simmons could set a trend of high-profile players with big-name agents signing maximum rookie extensions and simply asking out after one season into said extension — which would be dangerous business, especially for the league’s smaller and thus more vulnerable markets.
The trouble is that there isn’t an available outcome here that resembles anything good for all parties. I certainly think that dragging this on — in the press, in the facility, in the stadium — is expressly bad for literally everyone involved. Neither side is willing to give in, and there is no end in sight.
So it is my opinion that at this point, the best path forward for all parties is for the Sixers to send Ben Simmons home until a trade is made. I know, this is a terrible outcome. It’s so very far from ideal (I think we passed ideal at some point in the fourth quarter of Game 4 in Atlanta). By doing this, Daryl Morey will be putting an end to the longest staring contest in the league. Some will say that Ben Simmons and Klutch Sports will have won, but the truth is there will be no winners in this “war”. Everyone will look bad in a divorce this messy no matter what. But if Morey can simply accept that Simmons is never going to play engaged basketball for the Sixers again, he should allow this situation to unfold without the continued ugliness that can and will persist if he continues to try to strongarm Ben into playing — as he and his representation maintain that his continued efforts to do so are having a corrosive effect on his mental well-being.
Enough. Send him home.
This does not mean Morey needs to trade him for D’Angelo Russell and a second-round pick. Let him take up a roster spot as long as you like while he meets with mental health professionals and the Sixers continue to play (and they’re good without him, when healthy, for what it’s worth! Sending Simmons away will let us appreciate this plucky, effective Sixers team for what it is, especially once Joel Embiid and the rest of the guys return from the team’s current bout with COVID-19). Continue to wait out the tenuous situations in Minnesota, Portland, New Orleans, Boston — you name it. Morey should not be forced to make a trade simply to make a trade. But at this point, he should come to grips with reality and send Ben Simmons home so that we can all move on with our lives until the right trade comes along.