After months of allowing the Philadelphia 76ers to attempt to resolve the Ben Simmons situation on their own terms from a distance, Ben Simmons and Klutch Sports Group have reportedly taken matters into their own hands.
According to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Simmons and his management have begun applying pressure. On Tuesday, Pompey reported:
In a meeting with 76ers brass last week in Los Angeles, Simmons told team co-managing partner Josh Harris, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, general manager Elton Brand, and coach Doc Rivers that he no longer wants to remain a Sixer, according to multiple sources.
Sources said the three-time All-Star also does not intend to report to training camp. [The Inquirer]
Pompey later added:
The organization does not want to trade Simmons for less than what it believes is fair market value. The four told Simmons they wanted him to report to the start of training camp on Sept. 28 and be a part of the team.
Simmons and his camp can lower their chins, slump back in their chairs, cross their arms, and stomp their feet all they want. They can even hold out of camp, if they’d like. It even seems they would be unbothered by the repercussions of doing so.
In his report, Pompey mentioned that Simmons knows that the Sixers could fine him for failing to cooperate to that degree. But, Simmons would be unmoved by that, as “money will not play a role in the decision-making for Simmons, who has four years and $147 million remaining on his five-year deal,” Pompey reported.
That’s all fine and dandy. But, Simmons’ problem lies in the last part of that quote. He’s locked into a loveless marriage with the Sixers for four more years. So unless he’s comfortable sitting out for all that time, it’s the Sixers’ staring contest to lose.
As true as that is, Simmons and his camp can ultimately apply pressure from more angles than the Sixers can.
Simmons can hold out as long as he wants. Missing his star-level regular season value will drop the Sixers in the Eastern Conference standings. Behind the scenes — and lingering beyond the life of Simmons’ contract — Rich Paul and Klutch Sports Group can deter their clients from Philadelphia if this situation doesn’t play out to their collective liking.
Time Is On The Sixers’ Side
On the other hand, Philadelphia has two resources of their own that they can use to apply pressure.
They can resort to fining Simmons for not showing up. This is a business, and rare is the modern athlete that doesn’t dive for money. But as mentioned above, if he doesn’t care about the fines, Simmons can take away that resource.
The Sixers are more limited in their number of leverage points. But, the one they have is more real than anything that Simmons’ side can do.
The Sixers have time — four years, to be exact. Morey and company can hold on until the very moment they find the package that suits them best. And as they’ve shown all offseason, they’re willing to wait for that moment to arrive.
Playing With Fire
Playing with the fire that is Rich Paul and Klutch Sports could certainly burn the Sixers past the point of recovery during the franchise’s current era. But that’s just a gamble of doing business.
The primary downside is perhaps they have to work much harder to land future players represented by Klutch Sports. That’s theoretical and can be overcome.
Redeeming their last trade chip at a discount poses a definitive reality — not theoretical possibility — that the Sixers will be stuck for the remainder of this era. So perhaps the Sixers have to consider punting the upcoming season to wait for a star to become available next offseason.
That isn’t something that will sit well with Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid. Daryl Morey is cut from the ‘win-now’ cloth, too. The fans and ownership won’t be thrilled, either.
But, the pain of punting is also temporary. It maintains the possibility of fruitful return when the time comes to divorce from Simmons.
That’s better than having nowhere to go as a result of trading Simmons for pennies on the dollar.
So, as long as they’re collectively willing to be uncomfortable, the Sixers can emerge from this ugliness as victors. Time is the only leverage they have, and it’s the only leverage they need.
Where Does The Blame Lie?
None of this had to happen. None of it would’ve happened if Ben Simmons had simply peered into a mirror and asked himself why he was so often the door mat for the Sixers’ failures.
This is ultimately a story of a young man who always sees his own glass as being half full at times when he needs to see it as being half empty.
He’s observed his competition adjust to his game. He’s done nothing to counter those adjustments or improve upon his weaknesses. Even when his own shortcomings compounded into an epic disaster that cost his team a great season, he refused to take ownership of his faults.
Rivers And Embiid Didn’t Help The Situation
Sure, you could point to Rivers and Embiid choosing poor words in the immediate aftermath of a shocking upset loss to the Hawks. But, they’re humans and they made mistakes. If they could change what was said, my guess is that they would. That argument holds little-to-no weight to me when you consider that Rivers and Embiid had supported Simmons all season long.
The Fan Narrative Is For The Fools
Even with the damage done after that loss, perhaps the impending ugliness could’ve been avoided. But, I don’t blame Simmons for not wanting to even return for the start of the season, understanding the reception he’d receive from the fans. He was scrutinized to no end in his first three seasons in this market — often to ridiculous extents. That scrutiny was only going to be more severe in the memory of his being at the center of blame for the Sixers’ collapse against the Hawks.
No, the fans are not to blame for Simmons’ collapse or the ugliness of this situation. But, it’s hard to discard Simmons’ perspective. He was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t.
The Previous Regime
Simmons arrived in Philadelphia as both a teenager and the first overall pick in his draft class. He needed adults to establish a culture around him. But, that never happened under the previous regime. They enabled him to be content with himself as a player.
Bryan Colangelo, Brett Brown, and company never demanded more from him. Perhaps Simmons was always made to feel comfortable because he was the fruit of an embarrassing 10-72 campaign. But that lack of pressure to work on his game was bred from preferential treatment.
As Thomas Sowell once said, when people get used to preferential treatment, equal treatment seems like discrimination. So perhaps Simmons’ vision of betrayal is simply his being held to the same standard as everyone else.
But, it’s not his fault that he interprets it that way. It’s on those who painted the picture to begin with.
Still, Simmons is free to go as he pleases every offseason. The Sixers cannot force him to do anything when he’s away. So, ultimately it’s on him to be accountable for himself. When he couldn’t even play up to his own standard against the Hawks, all arrows pointed back to him.
And just like children who finally get punished for something that they used to routinely get away with doing, he’s pouting.