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Daryl Morey breaks silence on Simmons situation, hints trade is ‘less likely’ to go down at deadline

2020 NBA Restart - All Access Practice Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s been some time since Daryl Morey made an appearance on local radio to discuss the ongoing Ben Simmons saga. Simmons hasn’t played since the fateful Game 7 when the Atlanta Hawks knocked the Sixers out of the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs last season. His camp has cited a combination of wanting a trade and not being mentally ready to suit up for the Sixers. The Sixers’ brass in Daryl Morey and Elton Brand have had recent talks with Simmons’ representation in Rich Paul, but those meetings weren’t immediately fruitful.

Three months ago, the Sixers’ President appeared on The Mike Missanelli Show on 97.5 The Fanatic and declared “you are going to think I’m kidding. I’m not. This could take four years.”

Well, Morey joined Missanelli again to provide us all with an update on the situation. There are three weeks to go before the Feb. 10 deadline.

Joel Embiid has changed the equation for them

Joel Embiid has played at such a historical clip that fans everywhere are feeling a sense of urgency to help support his title quest. That’s where they kicked off the interview.

Can Joel lead this group as is to a chip?

Morey: “It has happened that someone playing as well as Embid has won the title so I do absolutely believe this team even without any changes has a chance. It’s not as good a chance as any of us want.... It’s not where I’d like to be. I’d like to be at least in the top 5 in the league. We’re just outside of that.”

If Morey believes that this team can win it as currently constructed, then that figures to decrease their sense of urgency to get a deal done here. He does admit there is work to do. And at one point he hinted that there is likely to be some type of deal made, even if it’s not the one everyone is waiting for.

“I do think there’s gonna be a lot of movement around this Feb. deadline,” said Morey, “and [if] something makes sense for the Sixers obviously we’re gonna do that.... regardless if it’s sort of the big trade involving Ben people are expecting or something, we would like to add to this team.”

So it sounds like we can expect the team to be buyers at the deadline in some way. But not necessarily the blockbuster way.

But what about the way Embiid is playing, does that provide added urgency to avoid “burning” a season of his prime?

Morey: “Embiid’s play leads us to ‘we have got to do whatever we can to help him’ and that reaction’s correct. But I think it’s the initial reaction that means that we should just get the best thing possible in February. I think that leads you to a bad place precisely because Joel is playing so amazing that this deal has to be the one that addresses our needs....”

In essence, Morey is saying the gut reaction we all have that screams ‘find this dude some help, he might just win you a title this season,’ is fair and he screams the same thing. But he’s worried about this year and beyond this year.

He added that the return “has to come back in an impact player,” and talked about how this fan base in particular knows you can’t just trade a Charles Barkley for a platter of role players because that doesn’t tend to work out.

“If you trade one of these great players for multiple,” said Morey, “it does not move your championship odds enough to make a difference ... and we want to for Joel, we have to make sure we get this right....”

You can agree or disagree with him comparing a trade of Ben Simmons to one of Charles Barkley. I did not get the sense he would argue Simmons is better than Chuck. But I do think he truly sees Ben as a great asset here. It’s noteworthy to me he speaks so highly of Simmons, and it didn’t come across as a salesy thing in my opinion

My eyebrows perked up when Morey said, almost as an aside, “let’s say we don’t make a big move at this deadline, which has a very good chance of happening, ...we are actually sitting on a solid chance to win the championship....”

That kind of talk makes it sound like Morey decided to hop on the public radio waves to at least brace fans for what might be a staggeringly uneventful trade deadline. It’s probably not lost on him that Sam Hinkie was once criticized for not tempering public expectation, or better explaining the merits of delayed gratification.

There was a bit more about Embiid’s prime, and “burning” one or more seasons of it.

Morey, speaking hypothetically: “If [fans] think we’re burning the season away without trading Ben we’re not only burning this season away if we trade Ben for something that makes everyone feel good, we’re also burning away all the other future seasons. So in essence we’re burning way more by doing a marginal trade than if we are patient...’

Any investor probably recognizes these principles and values Morey is expounding. You want to consider the highest ceiling outcomes, and not underestimate them. But you also want to keep in mind some of the lowest floor outcomes and not underestimate those either. Seems like he’s trying to maximize his upside while avoiding the worst case scenarios at all costs.

What about the recent scuttlebutt about a Sacramento Kings deal? There was a report from Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer recently stating:

“One source said Sacramento has considered packaging Buddy Hield, Tyrese Haliburton, Harrison Barnes, and two first-round picks for Simmons, Harris, and Matisse Thybulle. The source said the Sixers aren’t interested in that package.”

Morey basically denied having been offered that deal specifically. But he did say something interesting:

“I can tell you that for sure there are deals with the Sacramento Kings that I think would work, would work. Will those deals ever happen, I have no idea. Are they just straight deals with the Kings? Probably not. Is it multiple teams? Probably. But for sure there are deals that are possible that would go over our line.”

He talked about being near the 5 percent title odds zone. In the past, he’s said that’s where he wants to be before he feels comfortable using his own draft picks to make a big push.

He would go on to discuss if there were a theoretical young player with Tyrese Maxey like upside and how that would appeal to him. If you wondered to yourself if he’s talking about Kings’ guard Tyrese Haliburton, you’re not alone. That’s certainly who I started to think about at this segment. Morey came across as someone who has worked and will continue to work tirelessly to suss out any possible win-win deal, but isn’t desperate. (Or let’s face it, maybe he wants a win-win-win-win deal since there’s been so much multi-team talk).

He hinted that Embiid’s play has been so ridiculous that it has increased the number of offers they’re open to.

“I do think with how great Joel is our line has moved down a little bit....there is a better chance one [blockbuster trade] happens because of how great Joel is today....

Missanelli asked him to clarify:

“We absolutely need to get an impact player but there’s an impact has to be top 30 in the league because Joel’s playing amazing ... now we might be able to do it with a top-40 player who’s a great fit.”

Talks with Ben Simmons

Morey also talked about how the team didn’t make progress with Rich Paul and Ben Simmons when they met for lunch. “I can tell you for sure that those conversations have not progressed.”

But he said that the fact they met to have a dialogue at all has value as a starting point.

“You don’t make progress without first having a foundation of dialogue and that’s where we’ve gotten to,” added Morey to The Fanatic. “The one thing we’re all in agreement on is we would like a win-win trade.”

That last line is intriguing. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he said he didn’t want a trade, he wanted Simmons to play. Although going on the radio to say that might have made too many Philadelphians’ heads explode.

How did the Simmons situation devolve to this?

“Everyone I think needs to look in the mirror, and figure out how to do better.... we’re all responsible on all sides.”

And the biggest question of all? Let’s make some odds. Morey was asked what the chances are we see a big trade by Feb. 10?

“I think it’s less likely than likely, but hopefully I’m wrong. It won’t be from lack of trying....it won’t be because we don’t want to do it....”

Morey went on to talk about how rival teams are not incentivized to help the Sixers and these complicated multi-team trades can get derailed from any angle. But he has a staff that’s working tirelessly to get something done to help the team’s title quest.

Take it for what it’s worth.