Ben Simmons surprised the 76ers by reporting for his coronavirus test Monday.
But he’s not yet cleared for team activities.
Which looks telling.
Philadelphia 76ers All-Star guard Ben Simmons passed his physical and held a meeting with the team’s front office on Tuesday, but he remains ineligible to participate in team-related activities until Friday, at the earliest, due to NBA health and safety protocols, sources told ESPN
A player who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and who is entering the team environment for the first time needs to return at least one negative result from a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test facilitated by the team before interacting with other players and Tier 1 staffers, according to NBA protocols obtained by ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
An unvaccinated player must return two negative tests before returning to the facility and participating in individual workouts where no other player is present. If the player returns two more negative rapid molecular tests, he could then be cleared to interact with teammates and staff.
Perhaps, there’s some other explanation besides Simmons being unvaccinated. But 76ers coach Doc Rivers said Simmons would do an individual workout at the team’s facility tonight, suggesting Simmons didn’t test positive.
There are great reasons to get vaccinated: The vaccine is generally safe. Vaccinated people are less likely to contract and spread coronavirus. If they get a rare breakthrough case, vaccinated people are less likely to suffer severe symptoms.
However, Simmons also has incentive not to be vaccinated while his trade request remains unfulfilled.
With four seasons left on his contract, Simmons has minimal control over the situation. But being unvaccinated gives him a slightly more control.
Players get traded when they’re more valuable to another team than their current team. If Simmons would get vaccinated if traded – i.e., less likely to contract coronavirus (which would keep him out) and spread coronavirus to teammates and other team employees (which would keep them out) – that’s one way he’d be more valuable to another team than to Philadelphia.
Simmons could also gain input into his destination by agreeing to get vaccinated for only certain teams. He’d hold particular control if he wanted to avoid the Nets, Knicks, Warriors, Lakers or Clippers. He reportedly prefers those three California teams. But time to put those Simmons-Kyrie Irving trade ideas further on hold with Brooklyn facing New York City’s vaccine mandate.
Players on fully vaccinated teams can reportedly go to indoor bars and clubs. It’s unclear whether all the other 76ers are fully vaccinated. Asked what percentage of players are vaccinated a couple weeks ago, Rivers said the team is “very, very, very good.” If Simmons is the lone holdup, his teammates might push for management to trade him – another wrinkle in the already-tenuous interpersonal dynamics.
Simmons hasn’t publicly explained his vaccination status. Perhaps, it has nothing to do with his trade request/holdout. Keeping himself and those close to him safer would be great reasons to get vaccinated, even it lowered the odds of Philadelphia moving him.
But if Simmons is unvaccinated, that would give him more slightly more leverage, as screwed-up as that would seem