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Report: Ben Simmons files grievance against Sixers seeking $20M in withheld salary

Former Sixers first overall pick out of LSU Ben Simmons is trying to get some money back out of Josh Harris and co.

Detroit Pistons v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

According to a report from Ramona Shelburne, Bobby Marks, and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, former Sixers’ All-Star Ben Simmons thinks he’s owed some money and is coming for it with legal action. This unprecedented saga, came to an end (or so we thought) on Feb. 10, when Daryl Morey, Elton Brand and the Philadelphia front office acquired James Harden and Paul Millsap, jettisoning the disgruntled Aussie to Brooklyn along with talented role players Seth Curry and Andre Drummond.

Simmons wanted a trade, dating back to last Spring and told the team he couldn’t play for them any longer citing mental health reasons, by Oct.

But he would purportedly feel mentally ready to play with another franchise if traded. The Nets hoped Simmons could have made his season debut by now though he had a flare up of the nerve impingement back issue that plagued him in 2020.

Per ESPN:

“Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons has filed a grievance to challenge the nearly $20 million of salary withheld to him by the Philadelphia 76ers this season, setting up a potentially significant showdown, sources told ESPN on Saturday....

The 76ers have insisted that Simmons breached his player contract upon failing to show up for the start of training camp and refusing to play during the preseason and regular season. Simmons arrived in Philadelphia near the end of the preseason but cited his mental health for the reason that his participation in team activities was so limited.

The 76ers and Simmons disagreed over the degrees of access that the team and its doctors were allotted to Simmons to diagnose and affirm his mental health.”

Simmons’ camp is no doubt hoping that a clause in the CBA supports his claim that players should be entitled to salary when unavailable to play due to mental health issues. The team is hoping that what they felt were clear violations of the uniformed player contract precludes their former employee from recouping any money withheld.

The arbitration and eventual ruling will grab the attention of the entire NBA since it’s a precedent setting issue. If the result of the maneuver grants Simmons his money, it may cause concern that other players could follow suit. Mental health issues are not uncommon and should become less stigmatized in professional sports. However, fans got the sense Simmons wanted to be traded before he claimed he couldn’t play for the team anymore. That has them questioning his motives. He had four years remaining on a max contract he signed at the time. It’s all a very sticky situation.

Language in Tweets from ESPN’s Malika Andrews and Marks have fans trying to figure out if the Nets are paying the Sixers, or already have, and if that might change along with a ruling.

Per our fellow SB Nation site, NetsDaily:

“In terms of specifics, Woj reports that because of the way Simmons contract is structured, the Nets are paying the Sixers to essentially reimburse them for money already paid to Simmons.”

Some fans on social media have already joked that they don’t really mind if Simmons wins and gets some cash from some billionaires. But there might be a few reasons that could be bad for the Sixers basketball team.

For example, if management has a certain amount of money they want to spend on the team, and have already planned to allocate this $20M elsewhere, might that change the calculus?

What if ownership has a plan now to rout Simmons’ cash towards certain players or future coaches to help the team? Might they feel some loss aversion if this ruling didn’t go their way?

Remember when fans wanted the team to retain George Hill for about $10M bucks? Some speculated that did not happen because paying Hill would have cost management several times his own number in luxury tax fees.

As Kyle Neubeck of The PhillyVoice wrote back in Aug. 2021 when Hill was waived:

“(There’s also the possibility this is a mandate from ownership to cut the eventual luxury tax bill, though given the team’s recent decision to purchase a second-round pick, that would run counter to what we’ve seen from their offseason to date.)”

So if it’s possible the team gets or might get a mandate from owners to keep total costs at a fixed number, an unexpected $20M sum going out might put the squeeze on some creative and expensive moves Morey and Brand may hope to execute.

Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer hopped on our podcast last week to talk about some scenarios where the Sixers got James Harden to take a haircut on a long-term max so they could chase other players in free agency. Bradley Beal’s name even came up there. Needless to say, fans should want the team to spend as much as humanly possible.

But would they be willing to pay less during the next free agency period if Simmons wins this? Who knows. This is pure speculation on my part.

We’ll keep an eye on this one. Small market teams will hope the Sixers win so that something like this never happens to them. The players may be rooting for Simmons, in case they ever need time off for mental health reasons and want to be paid. And it seems like a complex and controversial topic. So many things have changed but Ben Simmons is still in the news here in Philly for the time being.