- Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons unexpectedly returned to the team after missing the entirety of training camp due to his offseason demand to be traded.
- Making the Simmons situation even more volatile are rumors that he lied about a potential COVID-19 exposure so he wouldn’t have to play in Game 7 of the 2020-2021 playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks.
- Sixers’ head coach Doc Rivers admitted to the media that he’s unsure if Simmons will play for the team this year.
When Philadelphia 76ers head case Ben Simmons unexpectedly reported to the team after missing the entirety of training camp it left many questions unanswered. Most significant among these–was he showing up to actually be part of the team or was it an effort to keep getting paid? The answer is still unclear as he’s finding ways to keep throwing money down the toilet via fines and no-shows but there’s no indication that he’s showing up to be part of the team.
Simmons actually hasn’t earned any money since rejoining the team on October 11. He’s been fined $1.4 million USD after sitting out four preseason games at $360k a pop along with fines for not showing up for practices, meetings, etc. The word from the Simmons’ camp is that he’s ‘got a point to prove’. Want to guess how that’s going? Since returning to the team the word is that he’s been ‘going through the motions’. Today, he ‘proved his point’ by getting kicked out of practice and sent home due to a lack of participation and a disruptive attitude. Sources report Simmons’ offense as being ‘disengaged’ and even more problematic refusing several times to sub in for a drill. Here’s how Philadelphia head coach Doc Rivers–a man with significantly more patience than I–described the situation:
“I just thought he was a distraction today. I didn’t think he wanted to do what everybody else was doing. It was early. It wasn’t a big deal. I just told him he should leave. We went on with practice.”
Rivers managed a smile when responding to a question about whether Simmons wanted to be there:
“I mean today, no. We told him to go home. But, hopefully at some point, yeah, I do.”
Asked about how he’ll handle Simmons going forward, Rivers responded with the poise of a guy that has been around the game for nearly for years and seen it all:
“Every day, every single moment, I’m going to give Ben a chance to join the team, and be part of the team. He’s under contract to be part of the team, and that’s not going to change. Sometimes it happens quick and guys join back in, and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve been in both situations, and I’m fine with that.”
“My job as a coach is to keep trying to get guys to buy in, to be in, and unfortunately this is tougher, this situation, but that’s my job. I’m not going to stop my job.”
Pretty obvious why players love to play for Rivers–his patience and understanding of his role sounds more like the ‘best dad ever’ than a pro sports coach. Not everyone impacted by Simmons’ antics are as philosophical and zen about the situation. The other key component of the Sixers’ roster–center Joel Embiid–sounds like he’s completely done worry about the situation. Speaking to the media on Tuesday after Simmons had been given the heave-ho from practice, Embiid said that he hadn’t spoken to his teammate nor did he sound particularly interested in doing so:
“I’m trying to win. And to win, you have to have that relationship with your teammates. I do have that relationship with all my teammates.”
“But at the end of the day, our job is not to babysit somebody. We get paid to produce on the court, go out, play hard, win some games … that’s what we get paid for. We don’t get paid to come out here and try to babysit somebody. So that’s not our job, and I’m sure my teammates feel that way.”
“We’re really focused on just winning and playing as a team.”
Understandably, Embiid isn’t displaying the patience that head coach Rivers has shown. What he *is* showing is some serious team leadership:
“At this point I don’t care about that man. He does whatever he wants. That’s not my job. That’s [the front office’s job].”
“I’m only focused on trying to make the team better, win some games, play hard every night, try to lead the guys we have here and I’m sure they feel the same way because our chemistry has been excellent despite everything that’s been happening the past few months.”
“So, like I said, I don’t really care.”
Spoiler alert–when a professional athlete refers to one of his teammates as ‘that man’ the relationship is likely too far gone to repair. Despite the Simmons situation, NBA betting markets are still showing strong support for the Sixers. At Betfred Sports Colorado, Philadelphia is a +750 third choice to win the Eastern Conference behind the public’s darling aka the Brooklyn Nets (+125) and the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks (+400). The Sixers are a co-seventh choice to win the NBA Championship at +1800 along with the LA Clippers and Phoenix Suns. Ahead of them are the Brooklyn Nets (+250), Los Angeles Lakers (+350), Milwaukee Bucks (+800), Golden State Warriors (+850) and the Utah Jazz (+1500).