Simmons makes good on threats, no-shows camp

Ben Simmons made good on his promise not to join the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.

The Sixers held their media day in preparation for Tuesday’s official start of training camp, and Simmons stayed true to his word, staying home in an attempt to force Philadelphia’s hand following his trade request.

“We are disappointed he’s not here,” 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said on Monday.

At the end of last month, Simmons informed the Sixers of his desire to be traded from the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2016. His commitment had been questioned since the end of last season, when coach Doc Rivers openly questioned whether Simmons could be the point guard for a championship team and co-star Joel Embiid pointed to Simmons’ failure to shoot a wide-open potential game-tying layup at the end of a Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference semifinals as the moment their title quest turned for the worse.

Relationships between Simmons and both the Sixers and their fans have seemingly frayed beyond repair, even as Rivers insisted Wednesday on ESPN, “we want him back,” and, “we can absolutely win with him.”

Teammates were even discouraged from visiting Simmons in Los Angeles over the weekend in an attempt to sway him to return to the Sixers.

Holdouts in the NBA are far more rare than in the NFL, where All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell took it to the extreme in 2018, leaving a $14.5 million franchise tag on the table to sit out the entire season. The Pittsburgh Steelers ultimately granted him free agency in 2019. Simmons, who has four years and $147 million left on the maximum contract extension he signed in July 2019, is in an entirely different situation.

The Sixers can fine Simmons for his media day absence and each missed practice going forward. If he fails to “render services” for the preseason opener on Oct. 4, they can issue a suspension. Each missed regular-season game could cost Simmons $227,613. It is unclear if the Sixers will begin punishing him financially.

This is the latest ploy by Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul to steer a star client to a preferred destination. He previously coordinated Anthony Davis’ move to the Los Angeles Lakers. Paul informed the New Orleans Pelicans of Davis’ desire to be traded in January 2019. Two weeks later, the Pelicans benched Davis for the remainder of the season. He did not face financial penalties and was rewarded with a trade to L.A. in July.

That situation was far different, too, since Davis had one year remaining on his contract and could threaten not to re-sign with potential suitors of no interest to him, tanking his trade value. The Pelicans also missed the playoffs and had no realistic chance of winning a championship. The Sixers entered the previous three seasons with title aspirations and hope to again this year, pending a resolution to Simmons’ trade request.

Thus far, Morey has reportedly turned down underwhelming trade offers from the Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers, among other teams. The Timberwolves fired their team president, Gersson Rosas, on Thursday, potentially opening the door for renewed negotiations.

Rosas previously worked under Morey on the Houston Rockets.

Morey has also had trade proposals turned down by multiple teams, including the Golden State Warriors. Morey wanted Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman, the Nos. 7 and 14 picks in this year’s draft (Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, respectively) and two additional first-round picks from Golden State, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey. Warriors owner Joe Lacob earned a $50,000 fine on Wednesday for publicly explaining his team’s aversion to a Simmons deal in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Golden State was reportedly one of three California teams on Simmons’ list of preferred destinations. The other two are presumably the Lakers and L.A. Clippers, neither of whom have significant tradable assets. 

Monday is the latest in what expects to be an ugly breakup, considering Simmons’ representatives made it be known through ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski last week that their client never intends to play for the 76ers again. There is no doubt his public quarrel with the franchise has hindered Philadelphia’s ability to stay in title contention, and his absence from media day moves him one step closer to missing six-figure paychecks in November.

Ben Simmons has four years remaining on his contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Ben Simmons has four years remaining on his contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach