The stalemate between Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers reached a breaking point on Tuesday when Adrian Wojnarowski hit send.
ESPN Sources: Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons will not report for opening of training camp next week and intends to never play another game for the franchise. Simmons hasn’t spoken to team since a late August meeting when he communicated this message to Sixers officials.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 21, 2021
If there was a question if Simmons would show up until traded, this tweet would seem to signal no. If it was a different player repped by a different agent, maybe there would be a détente. Or maybe if the GM was not this GM, the player and agent wouldn’t already feel so slighted. However, we have received the final word and Ben Simmons has participated in his last practice, much less played his last game in Philly.
Ben Simmons’s Grievances
Ben Simmons might be the most universally derided player in the NBA from both fans of his team and those who watch basketball more broadly. As the Sixers watched their season be taken away from them on their home court in June, all the derision formed a crescendo. Simmons passed up a dunk in the 4th quarter and was largely nonexistent on both offense and defense in the 2nd half of the game.
Then both head coach Doc Rivers and MVP candidate Joel Embiid all but said they don’t trust Ben going forward in their quest for a championship. Combine this with GM Daryl Morey attempting to trade Simmons to net James Harden in December and there seemed to be no turning back. The main players in the franchise had made it clear they didn’t want Simmons, and Ben was intimating the feeling was mutual.
Simmons has every right to feel slighted, even if the team signed him to a huge extension just one year prior. Morey wasn’t around for that extension and has shown throughout his career that he has little loyalty to a contract. If he can net a bigger fish, pack your bags. However, Morey did not net that big fish in James Harden and Simmons played out the year knowing the team tried to move him. To then be hammered by his own coach and teammate after his worst NBA showing, the man was done.
The Sixers’ Grievances
On the flip side, for all of Ben’s gifts, he has consistently failed at the number one role for a max contract player: Scoring the basketball. Compound this, which wasn’t just an issue this playoffs, was his lack of aggression to even look for his shot. We all know stars can throw up clunkers, but a refusal to shoot is a bridge too far.
You’ll hear murmurs from the internet that Simmons needs to learn to shoot jumpers, but that misses the point entirely. We just watched a player dominate the Finals by only shooting in the paint. The reason Giannis was able to do that is he didn’t play in fear of his limitations. He continually played with force when attempting to score, never shying away from drives and contact. At this point, Ben seems like he’s trying to prove a point that he can dominate without scoring. Newsflash: He can’t.
Factor all of this in and it is hard to blame the Sixers organization’s frustration in dealing with the same issues with Simmons. Again, this wasn’t just a 2021 playoffs issue. Ben scored one point in a playoff game vs the Celtics in 2018. He also largely disappeared scoring in the Sixers series vs the Raptors in 2019. For whatever reason, Simmons holds himself back from doing the number one job of a max player.
The Ben Simmons Resolution
At this juncture, the trade is imminent. A “when”, not “if”. During the summer Morey tried to get the biggest haul possible, surely knowing that all his asks were pipe dreams. Now, it seems he needs to swallow his pride and facilitate something. When you attempt to trade a max player at his lowest value you lose the ability to dictate terms.
This could drag out a while, especially if the Sixers can tread water to start the season. That would allow them to wait for teams to get a little more desperate, possibly sweetening the final deal. It would also deprive fans of seeing one of the 20-25 best players in the league suit up.
For Ben, let’s hope the resolution comes sooner rather than later. Nobody wants to be on the trading block twice in eight months, especially when the last time you saw the court you played horribly. A new team can provide him with the fresh start needed to get his career on track. When Simmons does return to the court, everyone will be watching to see if he can bring the scoring force befitting of a player of his stature.