Hey, did you know the Sixers open their regular season campaign tonight? Probably, but you’d be forgiven for being so lost in the Ben Simmons drama that it slipped your mind. We’re now just hours away from what was supposed to be a rebound year for a team who came so close, yet so far from ending their championship drought. Instead, it’s shaping up to be a year of turbulence due to the fact that the Ben Simmons saga is still ongoing.
Tensions hit a new high earlier this week. Doc Rivers reportedly threw a disengaged Simmons out of practice and he was handed a one-game suspension. Shortly after, Joel Embiid met with reporters and essentially stated that he’s past the point of wasting time trying to remedy a one-sided situation and is placing his energy on playing basketball, as he should. Unfortunately, that won’t be an easy task.
The Sixers looked to be very much in sync this offseason. There were some high hopes for the young guns following the Summer League and it looked as though they were unified in moving on from the drama and focusing on forming a team around Joel Embiid. Then, Simmons decided to return to Philadelphia.
It’s still unclear exactly what Ben’s motives were by returning to Philly during a preseason matchup without informing anybody. Was he trying to avoid attention or did he decide to cut himself free from the Rich Paul hold and decide his own fate. Whatever the reason outside of the mandatory medical, any chances of a positive reuniting were quickly extinguished.
This couldn’t have gone worse for the Sixers. With every sulk and swerve, Simmons has hacked into his trade value. The Sixers reportedly want a star in exchange for the services of their point guard and don’t really seem too sold on the idea of picks of young players. Daryl Morey knows that the team is on the cusp of a championship and has to find a legitimate piece that fits a nearly-completed puzzle. Unfortunately, as Simmons continues his spiralling behavior and petulant attitude, his value is diminishing rapidly.
If Morey and Rivers had hopes that Simmons would skip back into Philadelphia like nothing had ever happened, they were clearly mistaken. On top of potential locker room issues and the fact that Simmons is going to have to accept he isn’t at the center of the universe, there’s also the ridiculous amount of external pressure from fans and media who are frankly done with a player who tossed them to the roadside.
There is no way this ends well. Once upon a time, the Sixers had time on their side. That window has been squandered and they’re now left with a toxic player and a toxic work environment. Ben Simmons is unlikely to give 100% to a team he won’t even practice to the best of his ability with, and his absence is going to be just as detrimental to the team as his return will be but for a myriad of different reasons.
Is it all an act? it doesn’t really matter.
At some point, you have to cut your nose to spite your face. There is a basketball season starting tonight and an entire offseason of work leads up to this night. A new mission starts now. Unfortunately, there’s a malignant growth that has not been dealt with and it’s only going to grow more sinister as time goes on.
Forget a good return package, forget the dream return to the court. If the Sixers don’t do something fast, they’ll be dealing with a nightmare and it’s one that they may not be able to wake up from, ultimately ruining their playoff hopes once more.
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