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."
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."
However, sources have said Simmons isn’t concerned about the fine. Money plays no role in his decision-making. Simmons is doing all the things that will lead to a trade.
Dane Moore: Whoever you talk to around the league, it's a lot of the same thing when it comes to a Ben Simmons trade: "It all starts Monday". If/when Simmons does not show up to training camp, that's when the trade market really starts to materialize, and real offers start coming in.
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.”
Matt Moore: Quick note: the general reaction from sources close to the Nuggets regarding reports that they are “frontrunners” for a Simmons deal is general confusion. “Who would we even trade?” is a common refrain.
Matt Moore: I inquired about the suggested idea that Jamal Murray would be the centerpiece of a trade. “Not sure if that’s more insulting to Jamal or us to be honest” was the response.
NBA Central: Brian Windhorst says Ben Simmons playing in front of Sixers fans is a ‘factor’ in him wanting out of Philadelphia “He doesn’t want to be in front of those fans. …I don’t think he intends to ever show his face there again.” (Via @Sirius XM NBA ) pic.twitter.com/Ltt0ccwARf
NBA Central: "I talked to Rich Paul, and Rich Paul was the one who told me, 'We want out. We want out. And we'll go to whatever degree we have to go to in order to get out. We want to be anywhere but in Philadelphia.'" - @RealJayWilliams (Via ESPN | h/t Bleacher Report) pic.twitter.com/8TzNQQi1LB
The core leaders on the 76ers — such as Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle — and most of the team were set to take a jet to see Simmons before being turned away, sources said. Multiple sources said Simmons didn’t want his teammates, some of whom he considers friends, to make the Philadelphia-to-Los Angeles commute out of courtesy because he won’t change his mind on wanting a trade.
The 76ers’ training camp begins this upcoming week, with Media Day on Monday. Simmons has mentally checked out as a member of the 76ers, sources said, meaning whether or not he ever appears in Philadelphia this season the organization may never again receive the same dedicated player.
So far, the 76ers have not received an offer they deem enough to move Simmons and the franchise has wanted Simmons back to rejoin an Eastern Conference contender. Philadelphia has no trade imminent, although teams are calling, according to sources. Simmons has four years and $147 million left on his max contract.
Darren Wolfson: Sachin Gupta wants Ben Simmons. The same hurdles remain, but can he now be more creative on three-team scenarios? That still seems to be the key. But make not mistake: Gupta is all in on acquiring Ben Simmons.
Darren Wolfson: (Gupta) is going to work his ass off to try to acquire Ben Simmons and he has full authority to do so. Glen Taylor, Marc Lore, Alex Rodriguez... Trust me, they've given him the green light
According to sources, the 76ers would want limited or no protections on those firsts in hopes of flipping them for an All-Star caliber player around the deadline. That, alone, would be incredibly risky for Cleveland -- a still-rebuilding team that’s won 60 combined games over the last three years and is only projected to win around 26 this season. Even the addition of Simmons wouldn’t change the 2021-22 forecast that much, as the Cavs wouldn’t have enough short-term floor-spacers or shooters around the limited Simmons. Any deal would mean rejiggering the roster quite a bit.
Because Gupta has been elevated from inside the organization, it is conceivable that the Wolves can move right along and continue their talks with the Sixers without much of a diversion. Gupta and Morey worked together for years in Houston so there is background there, and sources say Gupta was involved in some of the talks with the Sixers earlier this summer before the conflict with Rosas reached its head.
Skeptical teams observing the Sixers believe that the interest in reconciling with Simmons stems more from their hope to recoup a bit more trade leverage than the infinitesimal amount they currently possess rather than a genuine attempt to mend the relationship. Whatever the motivations are for trying to coax Simmons back to the squad, withholding a large seven-figure sum after a few missed practices does not sound like the wisest olive branch to extend.
The Sixers would be best served if Simmons and Paul rethink their plans, though Simmons “is clearly aware of sanctions available to the organization to fine and suspend him, including withholding of salary,” according to Wojnarowski. An NBA source said Wednesday that Simmons initially asked for a trade at the draft combine in Chicago “right after” the end of the 2020-21 season. The Game 7 home loss to the Hawks occurred on June 20, with the combine running from June 21-27.
Simmons has apparently already received $8.25 million of his 2021-22 salary, with another $8.25 million due if he’s on the roster Oct. 1. The Sixers aren’t saying what they plan to do or if they must make that payment when, barring a dramatic shift, Simmons follows through with his holdout, according to the source.
Rather than increasing Simmons’ value in a trade, the Sixers’ preference is for Simmons to report and play this season in Philadelphia, according to an NBA source. Rivers said the same thing Wednesday: “We would love to have Ben back.”
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.
Tom Moore: #NBA source: The #Sixers' goal isn't to increase Ben Simmons' trade value by him reporting but for Simmons to come back and play this season. Also, Simmons and agent Rich Paul initially asked for a trade in Chicago "right after" the 2020-21 season ended.
Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers wants to change Ben Simmons' mind. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the star guard has told the team that he will not report to training camp next week and does not plan to play for the franchise again. "Well, I hope we can change that thought," Rivers said on ESPN's Keyshawn, JWill, and Max on Wednesday morning. "That's part of our job."
Marc Farzetta: "We hear it all, but we're not going to give up on that...I just love how [Ben Simmons] plays. I love a lot of the things that he does for the team...but we have to go through all this to get him back" -Sixers Coach Doc Rivers on @FirstTake
While Rivers wants to change the narrative, he hasn't had much of a chance this offseason. He was asked how much he's talked to Simmons. "Not much, but we've had some," he said. "And I get his feelings. I understand where he's at right now, but we're going to keep trying to work on it to get him in the right place."
Paul, who also manages Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Trae Young, has built a $2.7 billion empire and knows how to get what he wants. “I talked to Rich Paul,” former NBA player Jay Williams told ‘Bart & Hahn’. “He was the one that told me: ‘We want out and we’ll go to what ever degree we have to’”.
Kyle Neubeck: One detail I left out from this was the suggestion from a team source that firing Rich Paul (however unlikely) would be one way for Ben to try to rectify what some view as a self-created problem. "He could just say, 'my agent talked me into this stupid fucking strategy.'"
Even when Philadelphia's brain trust met with Simmons or Simmons' representation, there was difficulty in figuring out exactly what Simmons wanted that Philadelphia didn't or couldn't provide here. There are legitimate reasons Simmons might want to move on, but sources say his camp has largely communicated that Simmons wants out without spotlighting issues to fix or things being done wrong.
They could likely make such a deal tomorrow if they chose. But looking at all the options on the table, the Sixers prefer Simmons being on the floor and playing for them compared to dealing him for offers that cut into their title odds, sources say. The premise of dealing Simmons for assets and developing talent rests on making another more important move down the road, which people with the team have scoffed at recently.
"There are a few deals you could say, we do this, and we'll gamble that sometime later, we'll take draft picks and turn it back into having [a title] chance," a team source told PhillyVoice. "But why do that?...there's no reason to go get draft picks right now because you could just do it all at once. Why take the risk that you do that and you can't flip back out of it? It makes no sense with Joel in his prime."
It is clear Simmons wants out though and when you consider that alongside his poor form in the playoffs, the Sixers have little leverage to work with and the offers have reflected that. “The Sixers are yet to find a deal they are willing to do,” Wojnarowski said. “They want Ben Simmons in camp, they want to see his trade value improve and then find a deal out in the marketplace but right now they are going to do it with him on the sidelines because his intention now is to not play another game for that organisation.
“They’ve asked for a steep return. It is hard to trade a star player when you are a contender because you are trying to get back the pieces that keep you a contender now. “The offers on the marketplace just did not meet the threshold that Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers want in Philly. Now there is a standoff.”
The Sixers are expecting at least some sort of absence to open the preseason, sources say, though most are convinced he will eventually show up, citing a lack of precedent for extended holdouts in the NBA. There has been some public debate over whether the Sixers would fine him for such a move in the midst of trying to work through all this, though it seems pretty black-and-white on Philly's end.
It almost goes without saying that bridge-building would need to be done between Simmons and Doc Rivers. The head coach tried to walk back the despair he showed after Game 7 during exit interviews the very next day, and his defenses of Simmons far outnumber his one high-profile shoulder shrug. Even still, getting the two to connect during the offseason has been close to impossible, sources say. Ultimately, this is in Simmons' hands. Rivers would tell you himself that he regrets letting his guard down during Simmons' lowest moment as a professional. Some missteps are just harder to come back from than others.
In an interview with The Chronicle on Tuesday, Warriors owner Joe Lacob said in reference to a “Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Philadelphia” while being careful not to get fined for tampering: “I think we are always looking at everything to see if we can improve our team. We would always look.”
During the 2021 playoffs, Simmons fell past Shaquille O’Neal and Wilt Chamberlain as the worst postseason free-throw shooter ever and did not attempt a fourth-quarter field goal in five of the seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. “In some ways, it doesn’t really fit what we’re doing. He makes a lot of money. And, can he finish games? I don’t know,” Lacob said. “He’s very talented. The problem is: We have Draymond. Draymond and him are very similar in the sense that neither one really shoots and they do a lot of the playmaking. That’s one issue. The salary structure is another.”
On Tuesday, an hour or so after ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski reiterated that Simmons doesn't ever want to play for the Sixers again and is still planning on holding out, Simmons took to his Instagram story to troll Sixers fans and NBA fans alike. Amid the swirling "Simmons for John Wall?" speculation (which, no), Simmons posted an eight-second clip of himself in a gym with Wall to his account, featuring Wall yelling for Simmons to leave him alone:
Complicating matters with that caveat of right now, of course, is the reality that the Sixers also do not appear close to a trade they are willing to go through with that gives Simmons his desired fresh start. More than two months after posting one of my Tuesday newsletter extravaganzas on Substack for the first time on July 13 — also a breakdown, on that occasion, of the latest on the Simmons front — Philadelphia looks no closer to a trade to bring an end to this stalemate.
Weeks of Philadelphia’s Simmons talks with various teams haven't brought the Sixers to the brink of a deal, largely because Morey is the one faced with trying to get commensurate value for his All-Star and still asking for so much in return in his determination to recoup a trade package that, as one source put it, keeps Philadelphia in title contention. History, however, says that Philadelphia’s president of basketball operations shouldn’t count on getting a glittering package back when a deal finally materializes — his own history.
I reported Monday that the Sixers don't expect Simmons to show and are resigned to try to keep working behind the scenes to try to convince him to reconsider that stance. After I published that, another source close to the situation told me: “Right now, I don’t see a scenario where Ben is back in Philly." The source meant it with permanence. As in: Simmons’ career with the Sixers, to the source, is over.
I was told very clearly that the Sixers do not liken these circumstances to Al Horford's last season in Oklahoma City or John Wall's in Houston. As the start of training camp draws near, Philadelphia has shown zero interest to date in striking the sort of mutual agreement that Wall and the Rockets just hatched to shelve the former All-Star point guard.
The Sixers have not lowered the bar on what they’re seeking in a Simmons trade — yet. Toronto, Minnesota, Cleveland, San Antonio and Sacramento — all of them, league sources say, have engaged with Philadelphia in Simmons trade talks. They're also all bubble playoff teams at best based in markets not known for attracting free agents and surely love the idea of acquiring Simmons when the 25-year-old is locked into three guaranteed seasons on his contract after this one.
Yet league sources maintain, as noted above, that the Sixers are actively trying to convince Simmons to rejoin the team even though he has made it clear to management that he doesn't want to spend another second as a Sixer. I was told very clearly that the Sixers do not liken these circumstances to Al Horford's last season in Oklahoma City or John Wall's in Houston. As the start of training camp draws near, Philadelphia has shown zero interest to date in striking the sort of mutual agreement that Wall and the Rockets just hatched to shelve the former All-Star point guard.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Simmons is clearly aware of sanctions available to organization to fine and suspend him, including withholding of salary. But so far, Simmons appears willing to carry out a plan of forcing his way to a new team. Sixers have yet to find a a trade they’re willing to make for him.
Adrian Wojnarowski: ESPN Sources: Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons will not report for opening of training camp next week and intends to never play another game for the franchise. Simmons hasn’t spoken to team since a late August meeting when he communicated this message to Sixers officials.
Marc Stein: The expectation remains, one week out from 76ers media day, that Ben Simmons will choose not to report to the team's training camp, league sources say. But the Sixers, sources say, remain intent on trying to convince Simmons to report. More NBA from me at marcstein.substack.com
Brian Windhorst: On opening night I think he's gonna be in Los Angeles filming jump shot videos. He may be on the roster but I don't think he's gonna be there. (...) I don't think Ben Simmons plays another game in a Sixers uniform.
Morey will be in a similar position to Thibs in that rival executives will try to back him into a corner and wait for things to get really uncomfortable with Simmons, thereby driving down the asking price. But Morey is much more experienced in front office work than was Thibodeau, a coach to his core who had not yet started his third season as the lead decision-maker. Those around the league believe that if there is any executive able to stomach the circus that is sure to descend upon Philly, to block out the noise that comes with this kind of drama, it’s Morey.
Ben Simmons trade buzz has been one of the offseason's hottest storylines, but president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and the 76ers have yet to pull the trigger in a deal involving the 25-year-old three-time All-Star. Will the Aussie wear the 76ers' red, white and blue to start the season? By a wide margin, our panel's vote projects Simmons to remain in Philly -- at least until the season tips off on Oct. 19. 1. Philadelphia 76ers: 45%
Tom Moore: #NBA source: The #Sixers 'are expecting (Ben Simmons) to play (in 2021-22). The expectation is they will. It's bumpy right now (& the team expects it) to get better.' The #76ers don't plan on making a deal that would drop them back in standings & not getting viable offers. pic.twitter.com/QUMmzkKbKF
Just like ESPN’s trade machine, fanspo.com gives users the chance to play armchair GM by providing a tool that checks to see if a fake trade is possible based on things like the incoming and outgoing salaries of all the players involved. And according to data provided to The F5, no player has been involved in more fake trades on fanspo.com this offseason than Simmons. The chart below shows the 30 players who have been part of the most successful1 fake trades since July 1. Some of the players on the chart have already switched teams (either via trade of free agency) this offseason. Others may be on the move soon having been the subject of countless trade rumors.
Jon Krawczynski: Everyone that you talked to in the league believes that Simmons will eventually be traded, that the Sixers cannot afford to hold on to him and that Simmons is being very real in his threats not to show up.
Darren Wolfson: My understanding is Gersson (Rosas) communicated with Daryl (Morey), maybe some others in the Philadelphia front office... 'OK, KAT off the table. Anthony Edwards off the table, everybody else on the table.' But then like in the same breath, my understanding is D'Angelo Russell, Ben Simmons... They have a relationship. They played together in high school, that Gersson would love to have D'Angelo combined with Ben here.
The Athletic’s Timberwolves beat reporter John Krawczynski, however, recently reported that the team is hesitant to give up any of their core pieces in order to acquire him. They want a premium for (Simmons),” Krawczynski said of the Sixers on the “Athletic NBA Show” podcast on Friday. “Someone that can help them right away. But the Timberwolves don’t want to trade Anthony Edwards or Karl-Anthony towns. Those are those are deal-breakers. And they really would rather not trade D’Angelo Russell.”
Brian Windhorst: I think there's four or five who (are really interested in Ben Simmons). I just don't think there's anybody who's got what Daryl wants today. I know that Ben has tried to create this deadline of the start of camp. And trust me, nobody is better at creating artificial deadlines than Daryl Morey, he's an expert at it.
Do you know where Ben would like to go? Or is it a matter of, 'Just get me the bleep out of Philadelphia? I'll literally go anywhere.' Brian Windhorst: Well, I've been told a couple of places, but I'm loath to say it because I've seen other people say other things. And I think maybe it changes by the day, and I say, and all of a sudden that becomes gospel. But I think the answer to that question is away from Philadelphia is where he wants to go.
Jon Krawczynski: (The Sixers) want a premium for (Ben Simmons), someone that can help them right away. But the Timberwolves don't want to trade Anthony Edwards or Karl-Anthony towns. Those are those are deal-breakers. And they really would rather not trade D'Angelo Russell
After the transaction season ended in mid-August, owner Joshua Harris and 76ers management flew to Los Angeles to meet with Simmons and agent Rich Paul. The Sixers intended to tell Simmons they couldn't find a deal for him and hoped to put aside differences and enter the season on the same page, sources said.
Ky Carlin: Ben Simmons believes it’s not his job to fix his trade value #Sixers pic.twitter.com/x487WuiLUA
Jon Krawczynski on Ben Simmons situation: Given the developments and given how things are playing out, I think the Timberwolves are in stronger position today than they were even a couple of weeks ago in this whole situation.
Jon Krawczynski: I believe the Timberwolves are the team in the league right now that most wants Ben Simmons. I think that the Ben Simmons market across the league is pretty dry.
Jon Krawczynski: The real key here is that the information has now become public. And that is a very big sign to me that the Ben Simmons camp is going to start to really ratchet the temperature up on the Philadelphia 76ers, who so far have not gotten really close to anything in terms of the Ben Simmons trade. I think there's some frustration in that camp, about the lack of progress. I think they are trying to make it as clear as possible that coming back to the 76ers is not a an outcome that they are going to go for.
January 21, 2022 | 7:04 pm EST Update
January 21, 2022 | 7:02 pm EST Update
Kyle Goon: Anthony Davis getting pregame reps without his knee brace. You can tell which shots he’s hitting from the baseline fans cheering in the background. 🔈🔈 pic.twitter.com/VbKPmtNRHg