When asked specifically if this is one of those games where Simmons’ absence is felt, Rivers quickly dismissed that thought. “I don’t worry about that,” he quickly said. “Ben’s not here, so yeah. If we would’ve won the game, so, no. I don’t do that.”
Daryl Morey: Ben came in at the end of last week and said he had back stiffness. And he has he's dealing with some personal reasons off the court. Both we take very seriously. We're working with them to provide every resource to help them with what is needed. And, you know, he spoke to his teammates, you know, things seem to be moving very much in a positive direction. We're gonna provide all the resources and get Ben what he needs and get them out there as soon as we can.
When asked if Simmons intends to remain with the team moving forward, a league source said it’s up to the Sixers. Rivers said he wants him around. “He is part of the team,” the coach said. “I don’t know how many times I can say that. We have certain rules. Obviously, the other day that didn’t happen. But today was a good day. “And I think ... most people, we look at problems instead of the possibilities. I think if we focus on the possibilities in life in general, you have a pretty good chance of going to a good place.”
Sources said Simmons told Sixers brass he was mentally exhausted when asked why he no longer wanted to return to the team. “So Kevin Love, everybody else can tell you about their mental exhaustion, and you pay attention to it,” the source said. “But in this case, you don’t pay attention to it, because he got four years left on his deal.”
However, a team source refuted that. The source said the first time Simmons communicated his mental exhaustion was this week. On Friday, the Sixers communicated to Simmons and his representation that he’ll have access to whatever resources he may need while managing this situation.
Tim Bontemps: Doc Rivers says today was a “productive day” as far as the meeting with Ben Simmons this morning. Says he wants him around the team, but doesn’t have a timeline for when he will be on the court with the team again. “Today was a good day,” Rivers said.
Keith Pompey: There's scheduled to be an enhanced police/security presence at the Wells Fargo Center tonight for what was expected to Ben Simmons’ first home game, a league source said. The source expects the enhanced presence to remain even though Simmons won’t play.
Shams Charania: Sources say Joel Embiid today asked 76ers co-star Ben Simmons the question: Why do you want a trade? Simmons responded that he isn’t feeling mentally himself and needs time to get right. Details:
Tobias Harris: And we’ll respect his privacy and space during this time. When he’s ready, we will embrace our brother with love and handle our business on the court. That's it, that's all.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Ben Simmons met with Sixers' medical professionals and coach Doc Rivers today and informed them that he's not mentally ready to play to his expectations now, sources tell ESPN. He also talked to his teammates today.
Shams Charania: Sources: Ben Simmons spoke to Doc Rivers, Joel Embiid and entire 76ers team today and accepted everyone needs to take responsibility, including himself — but Simmons informed them all that he’s not mentally ready to play yet and needs time.
Derek Bodner: Daryl Morey on @975TheFanatic: "Would you rather eliminate what people perceive to be a distraction, or would you rather have better playoff odds? I'll take playoff odds... Whatever we have to deal with that helps the Philadelphia 76ers win the title, we'll do it."
Kyle Neubeck: Morey: “You’re going to think I’m kidding, I’m not, this could take four years…we’re in the prime of Joel’s career…this is not a day to day [issue}]. Every day, we are going to expect Ben Simmons to be back here, or we trade him for a difference maker.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: All-Star guard Ben Simmons is expected to come early to the 76ers shootaround on Friday morning to discuss his playing status with organizational leadership, sources tell ESPN. Sixers play the Nets on ESPN and team is still hopeful that Simmons will participate in shootaround.
Ben Simmons is not expected to play in the Sixers' home opener vs. Brooklyn on Friday night, a source told PhillyVoice on Thursday afternoon, and the circumstances surrounding his absence are likely to be examined closely as the team and Simmons continue their extended standoff.
One major point of contention at this juncture — multiple sources who spoke with PhillyVoice about Simmons' suspension from the team on Tuesday and Wednesday were prepared for Simmons to use some sort of health explanation to avoid playing in Friday's game against Brooklyn.
According to a source familiar with the situation, Simmons' back tightness had not previously been mentioned as a problem or treated by team staffers over the last week and a half. Thursday was the first time it was brought up as an issue that would potentially prevent him from practicing or playing. When Simmons went through his return-to-play protocol last week, Simmons returned a clean physical and had not undergone any sort of additional treatment under the care of the team.
Shams Charania: Sources: 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons is currently not mentally ready to play for the team and was receiving treatment on his back today due to ramp up process. He will miss Friday’s home opener vs. Nets and is not expected to play for an undetermined period of time.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Ben Simmons described back tightness to several Sixers staff members and was briefly treated for it today, sources tell ESPN.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The Sixers' medical staff cleared Simmons to participate in the workout after the back treatment, sources tell ESPN. The Sixers had hoped to see Simmons in the workout today and have him go through shoot-around on Friday morning prior to game vs. Nets.
Adrian Wojnarowski: ESPN Sources: All-Star Ben Simmons arrived and departed the 76ers practice facility today without taking part in a scheduled individual workout. His status for Friday night's game vs. Brooklyn (ESPN, 7:30 PM) is unclear. As a team, the Sixers had no practice today.
Ohm Youngmisuk: Patty Mills says he hasn't spoken to fellow Aussie Ben Simmons recently. "[We're] close in certain things and obviously his journey has gone the path that it has watching from afar. With national team stuff we've come quite close. As a fellow countrymen, you always wish the best"
Kyle Neubeck: Eagles center Jason Kelce on the Ben Simmons situation: "Everybody can bitch and complain about how tough this city is to play in. Just play better man, this city will love you."
Goorjian’s comments come after Aussie basketball icon Andrew Bogut weighed in on the “ugly” stand-off between Simmons and the 76ers. “It’s not good for either party, in my opinion. Ben’s side of things, training with your phone in your pocket, not being glued in to what’s going on,” Bogut told SEN on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, he has form doing these kinds of things; we experienced it with the national team. “There’s not going to be too much sympathy for him, but hopefully they can sort it out and both parties can have something positive to come out of it.”
When asked what he would do if he was in Simmons’ shoes, Bogut’s response was simple: “make your own decisions and be professional”. “It’s paramount that you come in, whether you want to be in Philly or not,” Bogut said. “Just show up. “You don’t have to do all the kumbaya stuff, you don’t have to hang around in the locker room, you don’t have to shoot the breeze with the players and the coaches and act like you like them.
“I’m disappointed with Ben Simmons,” Goorjian told SEN Breakfast on Thursday. “I look at it and go God, man, please fix this and let this kid blossom “It looks unattainable right now, though I don’t know that you can do anything other than (what the 76ers) did. “You’ve got a guy who needs to be moved, how do you move him? “That it’s at this point is horrible and I don’t have an answer to how you deal with a situation like that.
“He’s special, and he’s a tremendous talent, and I would love and I hope that the opportunity presents itself or he gets to a situation where he can show who he is. “He’s also a very good teammate. He’s been criticised … (but) he’s conscious of getting other people involved in the game. It’s what he does. “It’s not my situation, but I look at the kid as being part of our family.”
After a stressful day Tuesday with Ben Simmons being tossed out of practice and then suspended, the Philadelphia 76ers players gathered for a team dinner after flying to New Orleans in an effort to clear the air. After laughing and getting their minds off basketball for a few hours, the 76ers assembled a strong opening showing by blowing out the New Orleans Pelicans 117-97 on Wednesday, showing good team chemistry along the way. "It's good to just go out and kinda not talk about basketball and talk about life," said Joel Embiid, who scored 22 points and was able to take the fourth quarter off. "That's also an evolution for me, because I usually, when I used to go on the road, I'd just like to stay in my room and be on the phone and play video games."
"[The players] have been normal, the only abnormal part is when they have to talk to the media afterwards and they're asked questions [about Simmons]," coach Doc Rivers said. "It's about playing basketball and growing together, and they've done a great job of that."
In Simmons’ first meeting with team personnel last week, a meeting that included Rivers, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand, sources said Simmons reiterated that he was not mentally ready to rejoin the team after the past several months. The past several months, of course, included Rivers and Joel Embiid criticizing him after the Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Rivers, Morey and Brand asked Simmons to be present, expecting the situation to be back to normal, but it still isn’t.
Rivers wanted Simmons to take a spot on defense during this walk-through drill, and Simmons shook his head and refused. So Rivers asked once more. “Ben, get in,” Rivers told Simmons, according to sources, “and take the spot.” Simmons said no again. “Go home,” Rivers told Simmons. Simmons dropped the basketball and walked straight out to leave the building, sources said.
Sixers officials said Simmons will be welcomed back at the team’s next practice, tentatively scheduled for Thursday, and they are hoping for him to have a better disposition. After practice on Tuesday, Rivers said, “Every single moment, I’m gonna 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 so that’s not going to change.”
How the lingering Simmons situation affects the Sixers’ team dynamic remains an open question. Sixers sources say that Rivers has had the rest of the roster on the same page throughout camp under the leadership of Embiid, Tobias Harris, Danny Green and others. After practice, Embiid confirmed that he had not talked to Simmons since he returned to the team.
While waiting for Simmons to clear protocols and rejoin the team in earnest, the Sixers have only been able to put him through individual workouts and conduct meetings away from the larger group. And the early returns have not been especially encouraging — one source described Simmons as "going through the motions," though it was noted that things have improved each day over the few days he has been here.
Given the circumstances and the client history of Rich Paul (whose disgruntled players have ranged from Eric Bledsoe to Anthony Davis), this has come as no surprise to the organization. But if the trend continues and Simmons' dissatisfaction takes center stage on the floor in a Sixers uniform, there will be debate about how it impacts the team and whether it puts pressure on them to get a deal done sooner rather than later.
Critically, the Sixers believe they have the buy-in of Joel Embiid to carry out this strategy. In spite of the distance between the two over the summer and the shade cast in both directions through public interviews and leaked reports, Embiid ultimately just wants to win, and has expressed a desire to get Simmons in the fold and working toward contending. If Simmons proves stubborn or uninterested in doing so, the team believes Embiid is onboard with not settling for a trade just to be done with the problem altogether.
People around the organization have noted changes in him as a leader and voice in the locker room, with Embiid ready and willing to work with whatever (and whoever) they have if a quick resolution doesn't happen.
Simmons naysayers around the NBA have pointed to his arrival coming only after the cost of the 25-year-old's holdout reached roughly $1 million in fines and missed game checks, yet two sources with knowledge of his thinking maintained Simmons was always prepared to forfeit money ahead of training camp, and it consistently loomed as a possibility the All-Star would report to Philadelphia in time for the regular season if he was not yet traded, with an expectation of being able to recoup a portion of his docked payments.
That physical, and Wednesday's first practice session, are just the beginning of several phases the Sixers have planned for reintegrating Simmons into their team environment. The team has individual film and weight training sessions planned. Philadelphia has consulted with various sports psychologists in the previous weeks, and the team believes it has bolstered the resources Simmons has available to improve his game, particularly by hiring a new shooting and skills coach. It would seem likely that Philadelphia will make a concerted effort to clear the air with Simmons and his teammates, particularly Joel Embiid.
In this most recent sit-down, as was the case during that August gathering, Morey and Rivers once again asked Simmons for his reasoning for seeking a trade elsewhere. While the overwhelming majority of communication between Klutch and Philadelphia this summer has persisted between Paul, Morey and Brand, sources said, Simmons has only directly mentioned a general interest in a new start, sources said. And on Tuesday, Simmons didn't explain why he chose to report this week, either.
For that, dating back to those Combine dialogues, Philadelphia was adamant in its plans to withhold Simmons' pay for not complying with the terms of the five-year, $170-plus million agreement he signed in July 2019. Later, at Paul's home, Rivers even shouted, “It's in your f--king contract” to report and play for Philadelphia, sources told B/R.
But by all accounts, the head coach, a former point guard, has never managed to build a strong rapport with Simmons. Perhaps that's due to the additional demands coaches typically place on their nominal floor generals, or it may simply be a case of two differing personalities in a competitive industry failing to mesh.
Philadelphia, at one measure, instead hired Simmons' brother as a shooting coach, who proceeded to lead Simmons through pregame, on-floor workouts. But then the All-Star started posting frequent videos on Instagram of them seemingly training at the practice facility late in the evenings, without other Sixers personnel present, which irked several members of the coaching staff, sources told B/R.
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. Simmons met with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand -- his first conversation with them since August -- in a meeting sources described only as "brief."
The Sixers have a preseason game on Friday at the Detroit Pistons, and sources said it's too early to tell whether Simmons will be cleared to play in that game after staying away from the team for the first two weeks of the preseason.
Sam Amick: What I was told was that if (Ben Simmons returns), you're not going to get a guy who was mentally engaged, you're not going to get a guy who's invested. Of course, he would talk to his teammates, because he cares about teammates in general. But, you know, the inference was like, 'Good luck in communication with anybody else.' Now, he and Elton brand have a good relationship. That's the one connection point he still has with the franchise. Beyond that, I just I don't think there's any loyalties anywhere.
A source familiar with the conversations between Simmons' camp and the Sixers told PhillyVoice that the only consistent or clear message this offseason was about the accelerated timeline Simmons has been evaluated on compared to other No. 1 overall picks. In most instances, agent Rich Paul and others have pointed out, top picks are sent to bad teams where they can figure out who they are and how their career is going to play out.
Scotto: I spoke with one agent who reps a player on the 76ers over the weekend. He said, “If they can’t figure it out, the season’s over before it even starts.” It seems, as of right now, the best Philly can theoretically get for a win-now player in the short-term would be a deal with Portland for CJ McCollum, but Philly has had their eyes on Damian Lillard for a while, and they don’t want to settle.
Simmons believes his partnership with Embiid has run its course and it is another reason why he wants out from the team. After the team finished up practice on Tuesday, coach Doc Rivers brushed off the latest report. “I don’t have a reaction to that because Ben’s not here,” Riverstold reporters. “I do believe at some point, he will be and if he isn’t, you got another story. I don’t get caught up in that. Right now I’m going to focus on the guys that are on the floor. I think that’s more important.”
A source confirmed that the Sixers’ words failed to produce the expected effect within Simmons’ camp.
A source close to the situation told The Inquirer Tuesday morning that Simmons’ tenure in Philadelphia “is done. He’s not coming back.” The source also noted Simmons was never going to meet with teammates last week in Los Angeles because his decision had already been made.
The Sixers planned to take a jet to meet with Simmons and attempt to persuade him to commit to playing for the Sixers this season. However, they were instructed not to come because Simmons did not want to meet with them. “He had already closed the book,” the source said.
A source confirmed to The Inquirer that Simmons has decided his career would better off without playing alongside Embiid, where there have been spacing issues on offense.
Yet of all the problem areas to explore, there’s none more unyielding and impossible to ignore than this: People who have intimate knowledge of how he sees this situation continue to insist that he’s done playing with Embiid. There’s nothing personal about this choice, it seems, but the 25-year-old Simmons has clearly decided that his career is better off without Embiid blocking the runways in the paint that he so badly needs to succeed.
As he sees it, sources say, the organization’s choice to build its basketball ecosystem around Embiid’s style simply isn’t conducive to the way he needs to play. So while Embiid insisted to reporters on Monday that he wants Simmons back, this much is clear: The feeling is not mutual. “It has run its course,” the source said of their pairing.
“I watched last night a player lead their team to victory where a thousand pounds of digital ink were spilled on how much he would never play for that team again,” Morey had said of the Green Bay Packers star who led a last-second win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night after looking destined for a divorce with the franchise just months ago. “Look, every situation is different, but we have a lot of optimism that we can make it work here. …Ben’s a great player, and we expect him back. We expect him to be a 76er.” Cue the response. “It’s total bullshit,” one source with knowledge of Simmons’ outlook said of Morey’s analysis.
Truth be told, sources say Simmons thought he would have been traded by now. When he met with the Sixers brass at the Los Angeles home of his agent, Rich Paul, in August, telling managing partner Josh Harris in direct fashion that he no longer wanted to play for his club, the goal was to avoid this sort of mess. Sources say the Sixers had come equipped with all sorts of reasons that he should want to stay, and even supported the argument with a statistically based presentation featuring the success of the Embiid-Simmons pairing. But his view, his uneasy feelings about the problematic fit remained unchanged.
Early on last season, when the intel coming the Philadelphia 76ers guard’s way indicated that he’d likely be trading places with then Rockets-star James Harden, Simmons was so convinced that new Sixers president Daryl Morey was about to reunite with his favorite franchise player that he started researching on the real estate front. If you had to pinpoint a moment when emotional ties were severed between Simmons and the only NBA franchise he has ever known, that may have been it.
Noah Levick: Tobias Harris on Ben Simmons: "I've done my part of reaching out and communicating. The situation is what it is at this point. ... Training camp starts tomorrow and I don't think he's coming through that door, so we have to push on right now."
Derek Bodner: Shake Milton, on whether the Simmons uncertainty could be a distraction: "Not really. I guess if you let it. The guys in the locker room, we kinda have our head on straight, and we recognize it's gonna be a whirlwind (until it's resolved)."
Noah Levick: Joel Embiid on Ben Simmons: "If I didn't love playing with Ben Simmons, I'm honest, I would say it." Embiid says it's time for the Sixers to take the next step and emphasizes he's disappointed with the current situation (Simmons not being here).
Derek Bodner: Embiid says he's disappointed that Simmons situation has deteriorated. "I really hope he changes his mind..I do love playing with him because he adds so much to our team. We've been building this team around us. I don't see it as 'This is my team'. I don't care about any of that"
Tom Moore: #Sixers star center Joel Embiid on his personal relationship with Ben Simmons: 'I think last year we were closer than before.'
Keith Pompey: Joel Embiid was asked what the team needs from Simmons if he returns: "We've all seen the videos. So that would help." Embiid said Simmons has the potential to be that good. #Sixers
Chris Mannix: Embiid with a long, long pause when asked by @Tim Bontemps what he would say to Simmons. "I'm disappointed. We haven't won anything ... I got to be better, everyone has got to be better. But in the regular season, we have been so dominant ... we know it's working."
Chris Mannix: Embiid on Simmons: "I know he is going through a lot ... we just have to let him be himself."
Michael Lee: Joel Embiid on calling Ben Simmons passing up a late dunk a turning point after Game 7. "I don’t have any regrets because I didn’t call out anybody. I just stated the facts. I’m honest & I cant lie. I don’t feel like I put anybody in a situation where they had to feel bad."
Derek Bodner: Embiid, on Philly fans: "Fans have the right to act the way they want to. Personally, I would not want to be in another city...It's only fair for them to be pissed off when we lose...We get paid based on them coming to games and buying jerseys. I'm grateful for it."
Noah Levick: Joel Embiid: Trade rumors are "part of the business. ... You can't get mad at that. That's just the way it is." Embiid recalls "the whole city wanted" him traded two years, and "you don't really get treated as a human being. ... Then again, it is a business."
Derek Bodner: Doc Rivers on criticisms that Ben Simmons is "soft": "I've never heard of the word soft compared to the guy that was second in voting in Defensive Player of the Year, personally.
Chris Mannix: Morey says there is "a lot of hope" for reconciliation between the Sixers and Simmons. "We have a lot of optimism we can make it work here."
Noah Levick: Daryl Morey says Sixers "were not looking to trade" Ben Simmons and that Simmons' reps asked for a trade after the season in Chicago. "We are disappointed he's not here," Morey says of Simmons. He says his focus is to "do what gives us the best chance to win a championship.'
Michael Lee: Doc Rivers on how his comments after Game 7 about Ben Simmons were taken out of context: "Who do you think defended Ben more? I think the world of him as a player." On if that comment is why Ben wants out of Philadelphia: "I don't believe that's one of the problems."
Kyle Neubeck: Doc Rivers continues to dispute how his G7 comments were received..."What I said, and you can watch over and over again when you watch it, there's something called intent...I wasn't answering any question...I just wasn't talking about it."
76ers swingman Danny Green addressed the Simmons situation this week on the latest episode of his “Inside the Green Room” podcast. “This has nothing to do with the organization,” said Green. “This has to do with us. We just want to meet with him on a personal level, on a human being, friend level. If he still considers us friends, we don’t know if that’s the case yet or not.
“I know he still communicates with some of the guys,” Green added. “I haven’t been in communication with him. But I would love to meet with him and sit down and talk just to see where his head was at. Let him know that we have his back and we want him back and just give him some friendly advice. Just first and foremost as a human being, as a professional.”
Most notably, Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid’s stingy comments following the Sixers’ exit appear to have dented their relationship with Simmons. For Matisse Thybulle, his own error in the team’s loss should not be excused from the eyes of the fault-finding committee. Via the TheOldMan&TheThree: “He was thrown under the bus.. I lost us the game, which lost us the series & no one really spoke about it. They wanted to talk about passing up the dunk & passing it to me more than my foul.”
Though it doesn't look good right now, the Sixers continue to insist that their preferred outcome at this point is to bring Simmons back and try to work through this. Embiid has publicly stumped for Simmons and privately insisted they can turn this around if they simply get him back in the gym and around the team. Rivers does not believe this will be an issue in the locker room, using an example from his own playing days to show these situations can be rectified.
The Simmons-Rivers relationship has been one of many issues in question as this has played out over the summer. Sources with knowledge of the situation have noted throughout the offseason that mending that relationship would be one of the most important steps toward potentially making this work, even if temporarily, and there has been little-to-no progress on that front. Simmons' buy-in has been described as "low" or "non-existent" by team sources in recent weeks, with the head coach and player rarely speaking since the season ended in late June.
December 1, 2021 | 6:22 pm EST Update
Aaron J. Fentress: Damian Lillard (abdomen) and Nassir Little (ankle) will each miss several games. Lillard is out at least 10 days while Little is out at least a week. All of those days of “no injuries to report” or having one guy down screamed that bad luck was around the corner for #RipCity