How comfortable are the 76ers — not just GM Daryl Morey, but more importantly owner Josh Harris — with being uncomfortable?
How comfortable will Ben Simmons be with sitting out and not playing in training camp and maybe to start the season — with fines mounting the entire time?
Those are the bottom line questions in the Ben Simmons trade saga as the Philadelphia 76ers prepare to head to training camp next week. Simmons has signaled his intention to hold out of training camp as he demands a trade, and the 76ers continue to expect him to show up while they look for a deal. However, sources told NBC Sports Philly has yet to field an offer near what they seek (the best offer right now may be bits and pieces from Minnesota centered around D'Angelo Russell).
All of which made Doc Rivers’ appearance Wednesday on ESPN’s First Take — where he promoted his podcast, because everyone has a podcast now — all the more strange. It felt out of place, almost like it was from another reality. While acknowledging Simmons told 76ers management he wanted a trade before the season, Rivers said he and the 76ers wanted Simmons back.
Doc Rivers on Ben Simmons informing the 76ers that he wants to be traded;
"I can tell you up front, we would love to get Ben back. And if we can, we're going to try to do that. pic.twitter.com/JeWoIE3W7U
— First Take (@FirstTake) September 22, 2021
“I can tell you upfront, we would love to get Ben back. If we can, we’ll do that. We want him back.”
That’s not happening.
Rivers also said the 76ers can win a title with Simmons playing for them. We likely will never know if that is true.
Part of the reason Simmons wants out is he felt Doc Rivers threw him under the bus after the Game 7 loss to Atlanta. On First Take, Rivers tried to spin that what he said in the aftermath of that loss was misrepresented. When asked if Simmons could be the point guard on a championship team, Rivers said he was saying he would not answer the question. He says he wasn’t throwing Simmons under the bus.
Not true. In the First Take interview, Rivers told Stephen A. Smith he wished the media would play the video from the press conference, so here it is, make up your own mind.
Less than a week from the start of training camp, this entire situation feels more like a siege than a standoff — both sides are bracing for this to last a long time.
As has been reported multiple places, Simmons already received 25% of his $33 million salary this season (roughly $8.25 million) and is set to get a second 25% on Oct. 1. The Sixers will begin fining Simmons for not showing up to camp starting with media day next Monday (a $2,000 fine), and the money escalates from there, with the big showdown potentially coming if the 76ers deny payment of the Oct. 1 salary installment claiming “failure to perform” (the CBA term for not showing up and meeting the basics of the contract). Of course, Simmons and his agent Rich Paul would appeal that — traditionally, players are only paid for the regular season, which hasn’t started yet, so how can they withhold payment? — and it would go to arbitration, but that will drag out six months or more.
Simmons and his people want to make it as uncomfortable as possible for the 76ers.
The 76ers and GM Daryl Morey seem poised to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, with the one variable being how Harris and 76ers ownership handle all this. However, Philly knows it has one shot to revamp its roster as a contender with this trade, and they don’t want to take 50¢ on the dollar. Right now, trade talks around Simmons are very quiet, league sources told NBC Sports.
Something is going to have to change the equation to get a trade done. Maybe during training camp, another team’s star player announces he is unhappy and wants a trade, setting up the path to a deal. Maybe another team suffers an injury that forces it to rethink its situation and they consider making an All-Star for All-Star trade like the 76ers are holding out for. Maybe the 76ers get off to a slow start and they are forced to consider a trade for lesser players and picks that they can try to flip into a better player in a second trade (something the 76ers are currently trying to avoid). Maybe, eventually, Simmons decides to report, and people quickly remember he is an All-Star/All-NBA level player and perhaps the game’s best perimeter defender, and his trade value rebounds (and with that, the 76ers get better offers). Maybe a lot of things, but something has to give.
For now, both sides have dug in for a siege, and the question is who blinks first.
No matter what Doc Rivers is saying in his press conferences.