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An awkward training camp looms for 76ers, as Ben Simmons’ situation appears to be at an impasse

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Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers appear to be at an impasse. Simmons reportedly informed the Sixers that he wants to be traded and that he doesn’t plan to attend training camp in Philadelphia, which begins next week. The Sixers shopped Simmons around over the offseason, but they didn’t find any offers that they found to be especially enticing. So, the team is looking to bring Simmons back into the fold, for the time being, 

The Sixers remain intent on trying to convince Simmons to report to camp, and he still plans not to attend, according to veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein. Now, an awkward training camp appears inevitable for Philadelphia. Either Simmons reports to camp and his presence adds a layer of tension to the locker room, or his absence becomes an enormous elephant in the room — at least until all of his teammates are asked about it ad nauseam after the first practice. 

The rift between the two sides dates back to last season when Simmons was dangled in trade talks for James Harden. A deal never came to fruition, but the fact that the organization was willing to move him rubbed Simmons the wrong way, despite the fact that he said all of the right things publicly at the time. Things really came to a head following Simmons’ underwhelming performance against the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals. After the series, Simmons was unhappy with comments made by both Joel Embiid and Doc Rivers. When asked if he thought Simmons could be a championship-level point guard, Rivers replied “I don’t know the answer to that.” 

So now here we are. With training camp just mere days away, the situation between Simmons and the Sixers doesn’t seem any closer to a resolution than it was right after the season. The Sixers obviously don’t have to trade Simmons since he’s under contract for four more seasons, but by not trading him in a timely manner they run the risk of Simmons souring the locker room until he is traded — if he even shows up. If he doesn’t, the Sixers can chip away at his paycheck. Here’s a quick look at how the Sixers could potentially go about fining Simmons if he doesn’t show up for training camp, from ESPN

Under Article VI, Section 1 (player conduct) of the collective bargaining agreement, a player who fails to render services would be suspended and could be fined up to 1/145th of the player’s base compensation for each day he does not show up. This means Simmons could forfeit $227,613 for every practice and game that he misses. It should be noted that Simmons would need to be suspended before the 76ers can levy the per-day penalty.   

If the 76ers elect not to enforce the “failure to render services” language in the CBA, they could still fine him $2,500 for the first missed practice, $5,000 for the second missed practice, $7,500 for the third missed practice and a reasonable fine under the circumstances for a fourth (or additional) missed practice.  

The Sixers are clearly in no rush to make a move, as they obviously want to get a solid return for a 25-year old player who has already made three All-Star teams, and was the runner-up for the Defensive Player of the Year Award last season. Thus, the standoff between the two sides could ultimately come down to how much money Simmons is willing to forfeit by staying away from the team. 

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If he’s alright with missing out on a sizeable chunk of cash that he would be otherwise entitled to, then perhaps his absence will be an extended one. If not, maybe he’ll return to the team and make the best out of the situation until a trade is inevitably made. In the meantime, it appears as though at least some of Simmons’ teammates are mentally preparing to move forward without the All-Star forward. Without Simmons, veteran guard Danny Green sees himself as Philadelphia’s primary defender. 

“Defensively, I probably become the primary defender,” Green said of what a Simmons trade would mean for Philadelphia. “Not that it’s an issue or a problem for me, but we have one less wing defender without [Ben]. Now it’s me and Matisse [Thybulle], not saying the other guys don’t play defense, but you talk about our main defenders, Ben was a big part of that and a part of our defense. 

“Obviously, Tobias [Harris] has kicked it up a notch and has been amazing defensively for us, but Ben was DPOY for us this year. Everybody on our team, of course, we thought he, deservedly so, should have been Defensive Player of the Year. No disrespect to Rudy Gobert, he had a great year, as always, and for the last three years, but we thought Ben was able to guard one through five and set the tone for us. But if he’s gone that changes a lot, not just offensive but defensively, as well for me. It depends on what we get back in return.” 

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The situation will continue to unfold over the coming weeks. Barring a change, it seems likely that the Sixers will have to at least start training camp without Simmons, but we’ll find out soon enough one way or another. In the meantime, one thing is for sure: This game of chicken that has played out rather publicly between Simmons and the Sixers has made Philadelphia one of the most compelling teams in the league heading into the 2021-22 season.   

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