It was a rallying cry — and a T-shirt — in Utah, and even a chant in Boston:
Ben Simmons was not a real rookie.
He was by the NBA’s rule. While Philadelphia’s Simmons was in the second year of his contract, he did not play a single minute the season before, so by the NBA’s definition he was a rookie. Just like Joel Embiid the season before. Or Blake Griffin in 2010-11. Simmons was qualified for and, most likely, will win Rookie of the Year.
Was that fair to Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum, who were in the first year of their contracts? Who hadn’t spent a season around an NBA team, with NBA trainers and going over film with NBA coaches?
The question is moot. The rule is the rule. And, it’s not changing, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told Chris Haynes of ESPN.
“There are no plans to change it,” Silver told ESPN. “We’ve had that rule in place for some time. If we were to change the rule, we wouldn’t do it midseason. We would at least wait until the winner of the award is announced. But there have not been any discussions about changing the rule.”
A league source told ESPN that the NBA might be interested in adopting a rookie designation similar to that of Major League Baseball, where if a player competes in minimal games his rookie season due to injury, he would qualify for Rookie of the Year the next season.
However, Silver said he hasn’t had any conversations about that.
Call that the “Julius Randle rule” — he was injured 14 minutes into the first game of his rookie season and missed the rest of the campaign. He came back the next season and was not eligible for Rookie of the Year anymore because he played in an NBA Game.
We’ll see if anything comes of that. However, from the league’s perspective, all the debate about Simmons vs. Mitchell is just good for the game. People are talking, whether they are mad or not. So don’t expect anything to happen.