October 11, 2021
UPDATE [9:55 p.m.] — According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Ben Simmons is nearing a return to the Sixers. The All-Star guard reportedly arrived in Philadelphia and has taken the COVID test required by the league's protocols. The next step, per Woj, is getting Simmons back on the court. And while Doc Rivers said earlier on Monday that they expect Simmons to play, that remains to be seen.
Sixers are hopeful to start moving toward the next steps of a return with Simmons, per sources. Organization wants him back on the court once he clears protocols, but that remains to be seen. https://t.co/4Zc3gUp50R— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 12, 2021
In continuation of the discussions they've had throughout the process, the Sixers' and Ben Simmons' representation appear close to an arrangement to have Ben Simmons return to Philadelphia, according to numerous media reports on Monday morning. With the financial toll of the situation weighing on Simmons and agent Rich Paul, both sides appear closer to trying to make this work, at least for the time being.
As PhillyVoice reported last week, Simmons and his camp have been feeling the heat more than expected after some financial developments during the process. Klutch has not been in a position of strength and appeared unprepared for the reality of the threats that had been made regarding Simmons' willingness to sit out.
After being fined for missing Philadelphia's opening preseason loss to the Toronto Raptors — a penalty of roughly $360,000 — Simmons' representation had another discussion with the players association in which it was reiterated they would be unable to recoup the money being deducted from the $8.25 million sitting in escrow, sources say, and it was communicated to the Sixers that these early fines were perhaps higher than they expected. Each game missed (including preseason) will incur a similar penalty, subtracting from that $8.25 million figure in the process.
Simmons still has the right to seek arbitration for 30 days and can move for accelerated arbitration after the loss of a couple of hefty game checks. Following the phone call to the NBPA and discussions between both sides last week, the Sixers increasingly prepared for Simmons to show up for work. That read looks to have been correct.
On their end, the Sixers have been consistent about their approach to the situation. Daryl Morey is willing to make a trade if it maintains their current championship odds or improves them, and continues to explore the market as opportunities present themselves. But if such a move is not available, the Sixers prefer to keep Simmons and compete with the current group. Philadelphia is well aware that offseason positivity could fade for many teams around the league when the real games begin, and the front office is expected to be patient rather than deal Simmons for 10 cents on the dollar.
The big question now is exactly what the Sixers get out of Simmons when he does return to the team. His motivation to play and compete for the team will obviously be under the microscope in a big way, and it's anyone's guess whether Simmons will play the good soldier or let his distaste for the situation show up on the court. Threats to sit out under the guise of injury have been made at points during the process, and frankly, that could end up being to the benefit of both parties if Simmons proves to be a disruptive presence.
(To drive the point home here: "returning" does not necessarily mean "playing." There is a real case to be made that Simmons rehabilitating his trade value with his typically high-level play in the regular season is the best option for all parties. That doesn't mean Simmons, Klutch, and the Sixers all see it the same way.)
Simmons' teammates have tried to say all the right things about wanting him back and have been clear they are a better team with him available, no qualifiers necessary. But it'll be interesting to see how Joel Embiid's recent comments about how the team has been catered around Simmons go over with the returning star, and how Embiid receives Simmons after effectively burying him through the press.
If this development says anything, it is mostly that Klutch overplayed their hand this offseason, believing they could strong-arm their way out of a situation that was unlike most recent examples of a star wanting out. With four years left on his contract, Simmons' position was and is being closely monitored up to the league office level, where the Sixers have had some degree of support to hold firm. Combined with their naivety on the financial impact of holding out and the backing Morey had from Philadelphia ownership to wait this situation out, you end up where we are today, with Simmons' camp seemingly caving in the preseason after previously leaking they'd be up for a season-long hiatus to get out of Philadelphia.
Where this story goes next is anyone's guess, and a timeline for return is still unclear. After a summer spent kicking up dust, Team Simmons evidently forgot you're supposed to get to the other side of the bridge before you let it burn. It looks like it'll be time to face the city of Philadelphia soon enough.
This story is developing...
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