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Ben Simmons ruled out for season with back injury; Josh Harris in on group bid to buy Commanders

Keeping our eye around the NBA at a prominent former 76er, and Sixers managing partner Josh Harris’ latest group bid to purchase the division rival of the hometown Eagles.

Toronto Raptors v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Six Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers were defeated in Denver, 116-111, making it three consecutive losses for Doc Rivers’ group. Their schedule to close the season is brutal, and they may have missed a few key opportunities to buy their top stars some rest. So now they’re limping down the home stretch. And Embiid’s lead for MVP is slipping with news of his latest calf ailment.

The reserves nearly got the team back into the game but a missed out of bounds call by the officials ended their chances to make a miraculous comeback.

(The Denver Nuggets broadcast said it would be Sixers ball because Jeff Green was clearly out of bounds, which begs the question: why do we even have replay if NBA officials aren’t quite as good as untrained broadcasters simply armed with slow motion video evidence? Let’s get the refs some quick pre-playoffs training so we don’t have another Max Strus blunder determine who goes to the NBA Finals, yeah?)

Anyway, as the team looks to ramp James Harden back up, and perhaps buy another day of rest for Joel Embiid, they’ll host the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.

In the meantime, let’s look around the league for news.

Ben Simmons ruled out for remainder of the season with back injury

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, the Brooklyn Nets are shutting down former Sixers first overall pick Ben Simmons down for the team’s final seven games and any postseason play they’d be involved in.

Per Shams:

It’s been a wild, and really crushing ride for Simmons. He first sustained a severe back injury in Philadelphia during the 2019-2020 season. Under normal circumstances he would have missed the rest of that season and any postseason play too. But because the pandemic put everything on pause, he came back for the Bubble in August of 2020. But within three games, he dislocated a knee cap, and would miss the team’s first round sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics.

Before he got hurt Simmons played some of his best basketball that season, making an All—Star team, finishing as a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year, and making Third Team All-NBA. And after a slow start to the 2020-2021 season he would look fully healthy once again by around January, finishing as runner-up for DPOY to Rudy Gobert.

But then came his lengthy mental health struggles, which bled into the postseason and the next year. He would hope for a trade following an unceremonious exit to the Atlanta Hawks in Game 7 of the 2021 Eastern Conference Semi’s, and never suit up for the team again as images of “the pass” occupy real estate in so many fan’s minds.

The Australia native finally got his wish in February of 2022, but within a few weeks, while ramping up for a return to the floor in March a year ago, he re-injured his back during Nets practice.

Some originally thought he was trying to duck a return to Philadelphia, trying to avoid the boos. But the reality was much more grim for the LSU product. He was severely injured.

He received an epidural injection and it would be reported that he was dealing with a herniation at the L-4 vertebra, sometimes causing referred pain down into his legs. He’d try his best to ramp back up to play, receiving round the clock treatment from the Nets staff, but never got there before the team was swept by the Celtics. The ailment would require surgery at the end of the season, and apparently, as is sometimes the case, has not fully resolved despite a reportedly clean, successful microdiscectomy back in May of 2022.

Still, media pundits and former players went at Simmons mercilessly, attacking his character and desire to play. Rather than discussing his inability to return to physical form, like many do with say Zion Williamson or Anthony Davis, instead his character came under fire.

Even Simmons’ head coach Jacque Vaughn appeared to roll his eyes when discussing Simmons “knee soreness,” at one point, even while knowing his player recently had fluid drained from those aching knees. This is one weird case where people tend to ignore his very serious injuries and just tend to assume he’s fine but “doesn’t want it enough” or something, I guess?

Simmons may have some very real mental health struggles. You can Google what may have contributed to that back in April 2021.

Simmons has missed free throws, and failed to attack the rim, and infuriated Sixers fans.

But the Brooklyn Nets never once had the player the Sixers had who could, when physically healthy, lock up an opponent’s best perimeter player and be the most athletic player on the floor on a near nightly basis, warts and all.

Even the worst version Philadelphia ever had of Ben was athletic enough to lock up Trae Young, something the eventual champs, the Milwaukee Bucks couldn’t do until he rolled his ankle. The Nets were never once so lucky.

Daryl Morey sold at the highest point possible, even though at the time it felt like he was selling low.

Had Morey gotten his stated wish and Simmons tried to ramp up to play for the 76ers, it seems very plausible to think Ben may have hurt his back in Philly and now be completely unable to help Joel Embiid and co. win games. He would also be completely unmovable with two max-level salaried years remaining on his contract. Philly got very, very lucky here.

I feel for Simmons. I hope he gets healthy and gets his career back on track. But alas, James Harden is a Sixer, and Morey came away from that deal looking like an absolute cold-blooded bandit. The Sixers have missed Seth Curry even more than they’ve missed an injured Simmons.

Josh Harris submits group bid to purchase Washington Commanders

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, a group involving 76ers owner Josh Harris, a Mitchell Rales Group, and Lakers legend Magic Johnson has submitted a bid to purchase the Washington Commanders. Per Schefter’s source, that bid meets current (highly unpopular) owner Dan Snyder’s $6 billion asking price.

It’s at least a little odd to picture Harris owning a rival of the Philadelphia Eagles. Eagles players are routinely spotted sitting for Sixers games, and occasionally serve as Bell Ringer.

To think that Harris would be rooting against Philly (in football) is funny. Harris is a native of the D.C. Area, and we’ve heard rumors that something like this might happen:

Last summer we learned that Harris was willing to make a $5B bid on the Denver Broncos. And this bid, with some big backers, is even bigger.

By January of 2023, we started hearing noise about Harris and the Commanders, mired in systemic sexual harassment allegations. Nobody would be upset to see Snyder move on from the team.

Per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, part of NBCS:

“Buried in this report is the notion that Snyder, who supposedly wanted $7 billion of the team, is willing to accept $6 billion. While $6 billion represents a massive return on his original investment, the difference between $6 billion and $7 billion is ONE BILLION DOLLARS.

Did he never want $7 billion? Did he leak that he wants $7 billion to get $6 billion? Could he get $7 billion from Jeff Bezos, making spite a nine-figure endeavor?

Mitchell Rales recently joined the Harris group, adding to the financial wherewithal. Magic Johnson has gotten on board, too.”

The exact terms of the offer have not been made public at this point. But we know Harris has had plans to own another major sports team for some time now.

But there is apparently some stiff competition.

So there could be a bidding war here, we’ll have to wait and see. The NFL Draft is April 27.

When last we read about this idea, there were also rumors that at some point the Commanders could move back to D.C. proper.

As our Sean Kennedy put it back in early March, this could be another Pokemon card for Harris:

“As you well know, Harris is no stranger to the sports ownership game. In addition to the Sixers, he is principal owner and managing partner of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and general partner in the EPL’s Crystal Palace franchise. He also was interested in purchasing the New York Mets back in 2020, although Steve Cohen eventually purchased the MLB franchise for $2.4 billion. Harris collects sports teams like a 10-year-old does Pokemon cards.”

If the Harris group wins, it’ll be intriguing to see if Sixers fans, who double as Eagles fans, let him hear about the rivalry on the sidelines. Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown is just a bit more formidable than Sam Howell and Jahan Dotson.

And most importantly, for those of you already bemoaning the fact it was widely speculated last spring that Doc Rivers’ guaranteed salary played a role in ownership wanting to retain him, coupled with the fact that the Sixers waived a player like Isaiah Joe, perhaps (it’s been speculated) in part to duck the pending luxury tax, all smack dab in Joel Embiid’s prime and now best ever season, and bemoaning how some of those future billionaire pennies saved from future repeater tax fees may go towards an NFL team... we hear you. You are heard. Vent in our replies section.

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