Since the disappointing end to last year’s playoffs, it has seemed like the relationship between Ben Simmons and the 76ers has been broken beyond repair. Despite the four years remaining on his contract, Simmons has been deadset on never returning to the team and appeared prepared to take whatever steps necessary to make this happen. The 25-year-old has been absent from training camp since its start on September 27th but things changed when a Woj bomb was dropped in the middle of the Sixers preseason victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
This Ben Simmons soap opera has been a storyline unlike anything else the NBA has seen. With the entire league watching the war between Daryl Morey and Ben Simmons’ camp, this was the first move toward a conclusion. There are rightfully some hostile feelings toward the three-time all-star, and there are more questions than answers for what is still to come. As impossible as it seems, there is still a chance Simmons can turn things around and improve the situation for the remainder of his time in Philly.
Take Things Head On
There should be zero questions at this point that Ben Simmons and his camp have handled this situation poorly. If Simmons faces the music and says this himself, this could go a major way toward healing some hurt feelings. There are some awkward conversations soon to be had with his teammates and the media, and the tone will be set for his outlook on his return.
There certainly seems to be the feeling that the former number one overall pick has turned his back on the Sixers franchise. Given how he cut off communication with his teammates and how he has been absent from all of training camp, every member of the Sixers has the right to be upset with Ben. Healing the relationship with his teammates is the most important thing. Simmons cannot act like these previous actions did not happen and making it clear that this was purely out of business is essential to accomplishing this.
Blame Rich Paul
As the founder and CEO of Klutch Sports, Rich Paul is likely the most powerful man in the basketball world. With stars like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Zach LaVine, Draymond Green, and more on his list of clients; Rich Paul is a guy that front offices want on their good side. Reports have indicated that all communication has been entirely between the Sixers and Rich Paul.
While at the end of the day these decisions are Simmons to make, Rich Paul has pulled the strings on many of these offseason descions and rumors. This was far from the first time a star has been disgruntled and in search of a new team. Rich Paul controversially forced Anthony Davis to the Lakers after his growing frustrations with the Pelicans organization.
On Ben Simmons’ end, the frustrations with the Sixers organization has been growing for quite some time. The disappointing game seven finish and the postgame comments were the final straw, but the near James Harden trade and several other decisions played a major role. Once Simmons had raised his concerns to Rich Paul, he was putting the trust that Paul could effectively put his interests into action and get him traded. The meeting in Chicago to trip off the offseason to “determine Ben’s future” was Paul putting this plan into action.
If there is one thing that Ben Simmons has proven to be good at, it is passing the blame he has earned onto others. He should do exactly that in this situation and reinforce the idea that he was simply following some bad business advice. The DPOY candidate should talk about how he wanted to be back out with the team and that it was the recommended plan of action from his representation that kept him away.
Whether he is willing to throw Rich Paul under the bus like this is still to be determined. The pair have had a relationship since 2014, and he has been a consistent member of Ben’s corner his entire time in the NBA. If Simmons was to separate himself from Paul, it would be a great way to begin to wipe the slate clean. Given that the lost money is seemingly the motivation for returning to the team, Simmons may be frustrated as there was seemingly a miscommunication with how much he would lose.
Shoot the Damn Ball
There are genuine questions regarding if Ben Simmons has the competitive drive that is expected out of an NBA athlete. If there is any sense of a lack of on-court effort from Simmons, the remainder of his time in Philly will be miserable. The easiest way to win back his teammates and the fans are by showing consistent effort and showing up to play from this moment forward.
Another reality that Ben Simmons must face is that the Sixers have not been sitting around waiting for him to come back. There have been notable changes to the offense heading into this season with the full focus on running everything around Joel Embiid. With the emergence of Isaiah Joe, the development of Tyrese Maxey, and additions of Georges Niang and Andre Drummond; there is still a ton to be excited about this season.
With the team now firmly built around Joel Embiid, Simmons must be willing to take a backseat in his role. Despite his rumored desire to be a focal point, Simmons should fully embrace the niche role that he has carved out for himself. The end goal does not have to be creating a long-term future in Philly, but increasing his trade value is the best-case scenario for all parties. Doing what he is best at by serving as the defensive stopper and creating looks for his teammates while teasing there is more to his game is the best way to accomplish this.
With the long-term direction of the team solely built around Joel Embiid, Simmons must be willing to make sacrifices in his game to complement the MVP while he is still with the organization. One simple way to show this is by simply taking the open shots that will naturally be created. If Simmons takes it personally when no defender steps out of the paint to guard him and pulls the trigger from the perimeter, it will help quiet the inevitable boos from Philly fans in a major way.
While Ben Simmons has arrived in Philly and passed his team physical, it is still not clear what his intentions are with the team. It is pretty clear that there is no long-term future with Simmons in Philadelphia, but returning to raise his trade value is necessary for a deal to occur. The relationship between Simmons and the Sixers is likely fractured beyond full repair, but if the versatile ball-handler can take these steps it would go a large way to making the remainder of his time in Philly more bearable.