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October 21, 2021

Daryl Morey says Sixers are prepared for 'four years' of Ben Simmons drama in pursuit of title

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The Sixers' position on Ben Simmons has been made clear in public and private throughout the last four months — pony up a big offer to acquire him, or we would prefer to keep him on our roster, however long it takes to convince him to play for us. And in an interview with Mike Missanelli on 97.5 The Fanatic on Thursday evening, Daryl Morey doubled down on that stance, saying in no uncertain terms that the Sixers will drag this out as long as it takes in order to preserve a shot to win the title. 

"You're going to think I'm kidding, I'm not, this could be four years," Morey said. "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 [Embiid]'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. Or this could be four years from now, and we're still like, 'Hey, we took the best shot at it we could.' 

"This could be four years. This is not day-to-day. 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. 

"We would want him to play and be back starting tomorrow. But if he chooses to take some other path, that's his choice."

The Sixers have been approached by several teams, including the Timberwolves, Pacers, Kings, and Raptors about the possibility of trading for Ben Simmons since their Game 7 loss to Atlanta in late June. Those conversations have had varying degrees of seriousness, but the team has been steadfast in their approach, with Morey telling would-be suitors that he would only make a move that either preserved or improved their odds to win a championship with the roster they have in place.

Exactly how long the Sixers go is unknown at this point. The threat to go four years is at the very least a message to teams interested in Simmons that Morey is not softening his position in light of Simmons' recent antics at the practice facility. But the Embiid-centric timeline Morey mentions can obviously be flipped the other way immediately — exactly how long is too long to wait to provide the franchise player with reinforcements? The Sixers had to play their season opener, for example, without a backup point guard as a result of Simmons' absence (and, in fairness, Shake Milton's ankle injury). A small concern in the short term but an example of how rocky things could get the longer this drags on.

Even ignoring the roster context, there have been cries from some corners of the basketball public (fans and media alike) for Morey to simply rip the Band-Aid off and move on in order to remove a distraction from their locker room. Morey argued the opposite, dismissing that this was distracting the team and noting that he believes it has had the opposite impact.

"I would ask the question to Sixers fans, would you rather eliminate what people perceive to be a distraction — I don't — or would you rather have worse playoff odds, worse chance to win a title? I'm focused on winning a title," Morey said. "I'll go through mud, muck, over barbed wire, we all will. Doc Rivers, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, we will go through whatever it takes. Whatever process, whatever pain, whatever hill we have to climb, whatever thing we have to deal with that helps the 76ers win the title, we're going to do it... It's annoying to you, but I'm telling you it's not annoying to us. Never does it get me annoyed. It is a uniting factor right now."

On the subject of Simmons' trade value, which many have suggested has dipped during this ongoing public drama, Morey refused to concede that it matters in the first place, reinforcing his belief that trading Simmons for an impact player (or getting Simmons back in the fold) is the only thing that moves the needle for Philadelphia.

"People are focused on that, 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 [it has changed]. 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. 

"So our best chance, right now, is to essentially trade for Ben Simmons every day, put him on this team, and hope today is the day he decides to show up and help us win basketball games. Until that time, that is our best path to winning a championship."

This situation only figures to get more interesting, then, in the days and weeks to come, following news that Simmons skipped out on an individual workout Thursday and is leaning toward not being available for Friday's clash with the Brooklyn Nets. The team has been careful to note that Simmons' situation has to be prepared for on a moment-to-moment basis even as they've remained in constant communication with Simmons, Rich Paul, and the Klutch Sports camp. A public digging-in like this only figures to heighten the tension in this situation.

And as for the source of the tension, Morey made sure to go to bat for head coach Doc Rivers, who has taken some blame for Simmons' position after the comments he made following their Game 7 loss in June. If you have any questions about their strategy or how they've handled things, Morey is willing to listen but says you better come prepared to offer an alternative.

"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 10,000 — 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 agent or something...

"We know that we are taking the best path. People are saying you should have handled it better, fair comment. Which thing would you like us to handle better?... What situation would you like us to have done differently that would actually help us win the championship more than the path we've taken to this point?"

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