Disgruntled All-Star guard Ben Simmons met with the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday and informed the team that he isn't mentally ready to play up to his expectations and in turn needs time to step away, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Simmons reportedly expressed an interest in playing, but he's not yet prepared to do so, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports. Simmons met with coach Doc Rivers, his teammates and Philadelphia's medical staff to discuss his current mental and physical status.
The Sixers have been consistently fining Simmons for missing games, practices and meetings since he re-joined the team earlier this month. However, there's a clause in the league's collective bargaining agreement that protects players' salary for failing to render services "if such failure has been caused by the player's mental disability." Perhaps by going this route, Simmons hopes that he'll be able to avoid further fines while continuing not to suit up for Philadelphia.
During a Thursday radio appearance on "The Mike Missanelli Show," Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey made it clear that that team's stance hasn't changed -- they want Simmons to suit up and play, and will only trade him if such a move is beneficial for the team in the present.
"We expect Ben to come in and move towards being able to help us on the floor because we know we know we're a better team with Ben Simmons and we know that that's the best plan for the team," Morey said. "This is a very good player, and to give ourselves the best chance to win the title, you need different makers. You don't need role players.
"Right now, any sort of trade which obviously Ben Simmons wants, the best thing we can do is get role players back. That makes no sense. That will give us no better chance to win the title if we were to move Ben Simmons for role players. So, people better buckle in. This is going to go a long time because our only path, my only job is to help us to the best chance to win the title. Ben Simmons is a difference maker so to get him back, he will help us win the title. If we can trade Ben Simmons for a difference maker, we will do it. I think that's best for everyone in this situation."
Simmons still has four years remaining on his current contract, and the way Morey sees it, this stalemate could take that long to resolve itself.
"You are going to think I'm kidding. I'm not," Morey said, via The Inquirer. "This could take four years. The conditions I pointed out to you don't change unless Ben Simmons is traded for a difference-maker. We are in the prime of Joel's career. So this could be four years ... This is not a day-to-day thing. This is like every day we are going to expect Ben Simmons to be back here or we are trading him for a difference maker. There's no other outcome that doesn't materially hurt our chance to win the championship in Joel Embiid's prime."
If, and when, Simmons does ultimately re-join the Sixers to play for the team, his teammates plan to embrace him with open arms. "When he's ready, we will embrace our brother with love and handle our business on the court," Tobias Harris said of Simmons on Twitter on Friday. "That's it, that's all."
Simmons was suspended for Philadelphia's season-opening win over the New Orleans Pelicans for conduct detrimental to the team, and at this point it's not clear at all when Simmons may make his season debut. In the meantime, the situation will continue to loom over the organization.