Daryl Morey isn’t pacing in his office. He’s not biting his nails — at least, as it relates to disgruntled guard Ben Simmons.
Morey spoke with 97.5 The Fanatic’s Mike Missanelli on Thursday afternoon. In the interview, the Sixers President of Basketball Operations threw water on any spicy notions that Simmons’ behavior — which led to a one-game suspension on Wednesday — would pressure Philadelphia into an unsatisfying trade.
As the All-Star catches punching remarks from everyone from Joel Embiid to the Eagles’ Jason Kelce, Morey is cooling his jets on the trade market.
“You’re going to think I’m kidding. I’m not. This can be four years. The conditions I’m pointing out to you don’t change. Unless Ben Simmons is traded for a difference-maker. We’re in the prime of Joel’s career. We have to get back either Ben Simmons playing well for us, who helps us win the championship. Or, we have to get back a difference-maker for Ben Simmons,” Morey said.
“Or, this could be four years from now, and we’re still like, ‘Hey, we took the best shot at it we could’. So, this could be four years. This is not a day-to-day. This is like every day, we’re going to expect Ben Simmons to be back here. Or, we’re trading him for a difference-maker. There’s no other outcome that doesn’t materially hurt our chance to win the championship in Joel Embiid’s prime.”
For Sixers fans and media longing for anything else to talk about, Morey offered little in the way of assurance that the end is near. “People should buckle in,” the former Rockets executive said. “This could go a long time because my only job is to help us get the best chance to win the title.”
The leader of the front office is approaching this situation from precisely the correct angle. The late-night meetings that facilitate the team’s stance in its decision-making must be focused on answering one question — based on what the going rate for Simmons is, how do the championship odds change if he’s traded now relative to what they are if the team holds onto him?
According to Morey, Simmons is currently redeemable for role players. That’s a return that lowers Philadelphia’s championship odds in Embiid’s prime.
So, Morey and the Sixers aren’t concerned about ending the distress for the public. “I would ask the question to 76ers fans — would you rather eliminate what people perceive to be a distraction (I don’t)? Or, would you rather have worse playoff odds, like I think a worse chance to win the title? I’m focused on winning the title,” Morey posited when asked about the distraction of Simmons’ charade.
Fans, local media, and national pundits can continue to construct an economy of takes on this situation and offer diagnoses on Simmons’ trade value. But if Philadelphia sports have proven anything in recent years, listening to anyone outside of your employee body is bad business.
“People are focused on that [Simmons’ trade value]. That doesn’t matter. Here’s why it doesn’t matter — I can’t determine what other teams would want to do in trades. I can just take at face value what they’ll do,” Morey said.
“And we know that any trade that doesn’t bring a difference-maker back for Ben Simmons is a bad move for us to win the title. It doesn’t matter, whatever his trade value is. That’s a nebulous concept that I don’t even accept. But, let’s say it’s true [that Simmons’ value has dropped]. If his trade value is higher, lower, medium, left, right, up, down — it doesn’t matter. Unless a difference-maker comes back for Ben Simmons, our chance to win the title will go down.”
The translation: Simmons’ perceived trade value is irrelevant because the team is only in the business of convincing him to buy in or trading him for what they deem to be a difference-maker. In other words, the difference-maker hasn’t been offered yet, and the Sixers aren’t otherwise interested in entertaining conversations.
Beyond doubling-down on the team’s steadfast strategy with Simmons, Morey made it abundantly clear that head coach Doc Rivers will not be expensed to appeal to the Klutch Sports client. “Doc Rivers defended Ben Simmons more than any human on earth, maybe ever,” Morey said. “And if someone wants to interpret one comment in a way — that one comment out of ten-thousand — I don’t think that’s very fair to the organization or Doc Rivers. No one’s been more in Ben Simmons’ corner than Doc Rivers. And Ben Simmons knows that. To me, it’s all some sort of pretext to do something larger by his agents or something…”
So, Simmons can continue to rebel. The Sixers, from top to bottom, are unwilling to let him control their actions through this divorce. While there might not be any sort of end in sight, Daryl Morey is in control of the situation. Simmons’ vehicle to getting out of town is not to play, but to play well. And there’s nothing he or Rich Paul can do about it.