CAMDEN, NJ – This is known a lot: Ben Simmons is back in Philadelphia. But there is still no clear sign that the All-Star guard is ready to rescind his trade request and actually play for the 76ers.
Even coach Doc Rivers, publicly at least, is unsure of the status of the trade request, the latest wrinkle in the on-off relationship between Simmons and the Sixers.
“I don’t know. He’s expressed that, but we’ll see how it works out,” Rivers said Wednesday at team practice.
A rescinded application seems unlikely, though Rivers said Simmons “was great, it was good” when the two saw each other on Tuesday, a day after the three-time All-Star surprised the franchise by showing up in their arena during a game of preseason to get tested for COVID-19.
Rivers said Simmons was scheduled to return to the practice facility Wednesday night for individual training and that he will not practice with the team until it passes NBA health and safety protocols.
I mean, will Simmons play again?
That’s still a big yes for the Sixers, especially with one more preseason game Friday in Detroit before the first game of the season next week in New Orleans. Like Marshawn Lynch on a Super Bowl press day, Simmons can be there just so he doesn’t get a ticket. The 25-year-old Australian has four years and $ 147 million remaining on his maximum contract, although the 76ers put $ 8.25 million in deposit that they owe to the guard, and penalties for missing games and practices could be subtracted from that amount.
Rivers, who turned 60 on Wednesday, said he wanted Simmons to play.
“I assume he’s going to play, but who knows? I can’t get into anyone’s head,” Rivers said.
Rivers said he hasn’t ruled out Simmons traveling with the team to Detroit.
“Whether we have it or not will depend on what we see this week,” Rivers said. “He comes off rhythm, because he hasn’t been to camp, obviously. Having said that, do you rush him and put him on the floor? That’s another matter. What we see this week will determine everything going forward.”
Simmons missed training camp and preseason so far in the wake of his offseason trade demand that upset some teammates, drew ire from fans and left many baffled.
Sixers president Daryl Morey and Rivers have been publicly optimistic since the start of training camp that Simmons would play for the Sixers again.
Simmons, the top pick in the 2016 draft, had been listed along with Joel Embiid as the mainstays of the franchise as the Sixers chase their first NBA championship since 1983. He averaged 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists over four seasons with the Sixers, who selected him from LSU, where he played only one season.
The Sixers downplayed potential locker room problems, should Simmons return. Incumbents Seth Curry and Danny Green said Wednesday that they had not spoken to Simmons this week but would welcome him.
“We want him back. We want him with us,” Green said. “When he’s in the building, we’ll acclimatize him properly. We just want everyone to come here, show up and do their part, do their job.”
Curry added: “I’ll be able to see when I step on the floor where his head is. I don’t feel like he needs to explain anything to me.”