Ben Simmons is back in Philadelphia.
But apart from that, it seems very little has changed in the grand scheme of things.
According to reports, there’s no real change in Simmons’ desire to force a trade, while the Sixers continue to maintain they won’t deal the Australian unless they’re presented with a package that gives them a shot at the title.
Watch the 21/22 NBA Season with ESPN on Kayo. Live coverage every week plus every game of the NBA Finals. New to Kayo? Start your free trial >
After months of hearing that Simmons would be happy to miss training camp, and playing time, the 25-year-old simply turned up at Wells Fargo Center earlier this week.
Despite his agent, Rich Paul, speaking with Sixers general manager Daryl Morey and head coach Doc Rivers on multiple occasions that day, Simmons’ decision to return to Philadelphia was not communicated.
“It seems the surprise appearance was quite intentional, just the latest choreography Simmons and his team at Klutch Sports have orchestrated this offseason,” according to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer.
According to Fischer, Simmons, who has recommenced communication with those inside the organisation, sat down with Morey and Rivers for the first time a day later, with the three-time All-Star failing to explain why he chose to finally report.
While some suggested it was Simmons looking to stop the bleeding from his bank account, others have theorised it could simply be a way to give Philadelphia a better platform to figure out a trade.
A trade, that according to Fischer, is more likely to occur in late December. There are 10 teams said to be engaged with Philadelphia in the Simmons chase: Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Indiana, Minnesota, Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio, Toronto, and a “mystery” 10th franchise that has reportedly held substantial trade conversations with the Sixers of late.
Fischer adds that no team has come close to Philadelphia’s asking price, with most negotiations not even making it to the stage of a legitimate offer.
The Cavaliers and Timberwolves have reportedly framed pick-heavy deals, Detroit “would entertain” a trade centred around Jerami Grant, the Sixers supposedly aren’t interested in Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV from the Spurs in exchange for Simmons, while the Kings won’t include De’Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton in any package.
So, if a trade can’t be worked out, the Sixers will want Simmons in the line-up. And while it’s yet to be determined whether he’s actually willing to participate, there’s an argument to be made that erasing Game 7 as the league’s most recent memory of him would only help in raising trade interest.
Ever since this saga began, Philadelphia has been adamant they want him back, and that they’d withhold money from Simmons if he didn’t turn up.
“It’s in your f***ing contract,” Rivers reportedly shouted, months ago, while at Paul’s home.
And it’s that relationship between Rivers and Simmons that might have to be mended, if the star is going to stay. According to Fischer, “By all account, the head coach, a former point guard, has never managed to build a strong rapport with Simmons.”
It was Rivers who failed to back Simmons after the Sixers crashed out of the post-season; one of the multiple reasons the guard was so ready to move on from the organisation.
Simmons’ relationship with Morey is also somewhat non-existent, with the Sixers shot-caller’s decision to prioritise Joel Embiid another sticking point.
Simmons will begin working out in isolation, as per the NBA’s health and safety protocols, before he can train and play with the team.
That’s if he wants to play.