January 11, 2021
The Sixers were $25,000 for failing to disclose an injury to Ben Simmons in an injury report over the weekend, the league announced Monday, a response to what appeared to be a very late scratch of Philly's two best players on Saturday afternoon.
Philadelphia's seven-man effort against the Nuggets on Saturday appears to be the source of the dispute. Simmons was not listed on the Friday evening (8:30 p..m.) report in advance of Saturday's game, only to be ruled out hours before tip-off along with franchise center Joel Embiid. At the time, there were questions about the legitimacy of the injury listings, particularly in the wake of a report from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that Sixers players were reluctant to play with a depleted roster.
There are still Philadelphia players unsure about playing vs. Denver today, sources tell ESPN. The league mandates a team must play if it has eight eligible players; Philly technically has nine. Sixers are remaining in contact with league office with tip time at 3 PM.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 9, 2021
Pressed on the matter by reporters before the game, head coach Doc Rivers insisted everything was above board, and that the knocks for Embiid and Simmons were legitimate.
"Ben in the Brooklyn game had some knee stiffness, and so we almost probably knew after the game that he wouldn't play tonight," Rivers said. "And then Joel started complaining about his back over the last, he started yesterday. And we didn't know if he was playing or not. But honestly, with the minutes we would have to ask, it would be insane to play him."
Perhaps that quote from Rivers is the justification for the fine. If the Sixers knew or even suspected Simmons wasn't going to be available for Saturday's game, they had an obligation to inform the league (and their opponent) on the Friday evening injury report. There have been confusing elements to how this has all gone down over the last few days, with the Sixers having to play with seven players despite postponements elsewhere, but the fine component makes sense, even if it riles up Philly fans a little bit.
The real question is why the league only applied that logic to the Simmons situation and not toward Embiid, who was only listed on Friday's injury report under the "health and safety protocol" provision and with nothing mentioned about his back. Once cleared under the league's (admittedly strange) protocols, that would effectively remove Embiid from the injury report. By making him a late scratch, you're provoking the same questions about disclosure and transparency at the heart of the Simmons dispute, though in this case Embiid's health history actually gives them some cover to do so.
(I'm not advocating for the Sixers to be fined more money, for the record, simply pointing out how application of the rules can be a strange process in the NBA. And with Embiid already cleared for Monday's game vs. Atlanta, in which the same Rivers point about minutes played will apply, there's even more reason to raise an eyebrow at the process.)
Simmons did not travel with the team to Atlanta, and the team says Simmons has responded well to treatment on his left knee, and is considered day-to-day as he goes through the treatment process. The swelling the team says he's dealing with is in the same knee Simmons had surgery on following an injury suffered during the league's bubble restart.
Elsewhere around the league, the COVID issue has sent the league into chaos, with the league announcing Monday there would be an emergency meeting between the NBA and NBA Players Association to discuss potential changes to the league's health and safety protocols. Philadelphia has games of their own this week that are in danger of being postponed due to the opponent — Miami could not field enough players to battle the Boston Celtics on Sunday, and the Sixers have a pair of games against the Heat on Tuesday and Thursday this week.
For now, they'll just have to focus on getting past the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night with a group of nine players.
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