We have another update on the long-running saga between the Philadelphia 76ers and All-Star guard Ben Simmons. The Sixers have fined Simmons for skipping the team's six-game road trip -- which begins on Tuesday night against the Utah Jazz -- according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Most recently, the two sides have been in dispute over Simmons' readiness to play. He has told the team that he does not feel mentally ready to come back, and has been seeking help from mental health professionals in conjunction with the players union. The Sixers, however, wanted him to consult with a team-appointed mental health specialist and contended he has not been forthcoming with details of his treatment. Simmons ultimately decided to meet with said specialists after pressure from the organization.
Simmons' agent Rich Paul recently criticized the Sixers for how they've handled the situation.
"I truly believe the fines, the targeting, the negative publicity shined on the issue — that's very unnecessary and has furthered the mental health issues for Ben," Paul said. "Either you help Ben, or come out and say he's lying. Which one is it?
"In this case, we have to get Ben help and not put finances above mental health," Paul continued. "As an agent, I understand contractual obligations and I hold myself accountable in this business. But if someone is telling you something, we can no longer turn a blind eye in today's world."
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In an effort to force a trade, Simmons staged a hold out during the early portion of training camp. As a result, the team withheld the $8.25 million he was due to be paid on Oct. 1 per the terms of his contract, which was front-loaded this year. They then fined him for missing the team's first two preseason games.
After that, Simmons reluctantly returned to Philadelphia in what was pretty clearly a financially motivated decision. Once he cleared health and safety protocols, he practiced with the team but was almost immediately kicked out for refusing to participate in a drill. A few days after being sent home from practice is when he told the team he was not in the right place mentally to play.
A clause in the league's collective bargaining agreement protects players' salary for failing to render services "if such failure has been caused by the player's mental disability." As a result, the team stopped fining Simmons for missing practices and games. But because of the dispute over Simmons' treatment, the team resumed the monetary penalties on Nov. 5.
This most recent fine for skipping the road trip shows that the two sides are a long way from any sort of working relationship. Simmons doesn't want to play for the team, and the Sixers don't want to trade him for less than they think he's worth. As such, this stalemate will likely continue for the foreseeable future.