Ben Simmons Is Foolishly Focusing His Efforts on a $20 Million Distraction

The Brooklyn Nets are just days away from a fight for their lives in the Eastern Conference play-in round. Yet Ben Simmons is gearing up for war against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The 25-year-old star is filing a grievance against the 76ers, his former team, in an effort to reclaim money that he believes they owe him. Philadelphia withheld nearly $20 million from Simmons as he sat out this season citing mental health concerns.

This legal battle has the potential to get messy. Not to mention, it doesn’t help the Nets at all during this crucial point in the season.

Ben Simmons is filing a grievance against the 76ers

Simmons was Philadelphia’s first-overall pick in 2016 and an integral part of the infamous “Process”. However, his tenure with the team ended poorly, as his no-show performance during last year’s postseason coupled with his summer trade request led to his exile to the Big Apple.

Now, the three-time All-Star is attacking the Sixers … just not on the basketball court.

As first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski, Ramona Shelburne, and Bobby Marks of ESPN, Simmons has officially filed a grievance to challenge the $20 million or so Philadelphia withheld from him. The grievance will now go to the arbitration process.

According to the report, Philadelphia repeatedly insisted that Simmons was breaching his contract and that it had the right to recoup the money advanced to him before the season. Meanwhile, Simmons believes that because he sat out for mental health reasons, he shouldn’t be forced to lose any of this season’s $33 million salary.

The 76ers were actually paying Simmons at the start of the season even though he was away from the team. Yet after he refused treatment from team doctors, they began fining him for each missed game beginning on Nov. 4.

Simmons’ grievance comes at a bad time for the Nets

According to the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, a grievance must be initiated within 30 days of the date of the occurrence. However, Simmons’ representatives told ESPN that because the issue had been ongoing, they were exempt from the rule.

While it would have been complicated to file a grievance while he was with the Sixers, the timing couldn’t be any worse for Simmons and the Nets.

Even though Simmons was granted his wish and traded to Brooklyn at the deadline, he still hasn’t played. A sore back has kept him on the shelf during his entire Nets tenure. Worse yet, he still doesn’t have a return date on the horizon.

This grievance is ultimately going to be important. It should eventually give the NBA some more precedence on how to handle players with mental health concerns. Though as cliche as it sounds, Simmons must be present with his new team, not his old one.

Brooklyn is 40-37, desperately clinging onto a tiebreaker over the nine-seed Charlotte Hornets and 10-seed Atlanta Hawks. With five games to go, every game from here on out could determine its fate in the play-in. If the Nets fall to the nine- or 10-spot, they would officially be one loss away from missing the playoffs.

The Nets traded James Harden, a former MVP, and got Simmons, Seth Curry, and Andre Drummond in return. While the latter two have performed admirably, this team ultimately needs Ben on the court in order to salvage any fleeting title hopes. That means focusing his time and energy on getting healthy and playing instead of diving into a legal war with his ex-club.

Brooklyn took a risk by acquiring Simmons and has been nothing but patient with him. Now he must reward them or risk another team (and fan base) beginning to resent him.

The 76ers could still face Ben Simmons in the playoffs

The grievance has been filed and the battle is officially on between Simmons and the Sixers. Now imagine if the two sides actually battle it out on the court in the next couple of weeks.

Entering Saturday, the 46-30 Sixers are the four-seed in the East. However, they trail the one-seed Miami Heat by 2.5 games and the two-seed Milwaukee Bucks by 1.5 games. Meanwhile, the Nets are still holding onto the eight-seed, setting themselves up for a play-in matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Conceivably, we could see the 76ers move into the two-seed before season’s end. Then, if Brooklyn plays Cleveland and wins, it would officially become the seven-seed. That would mean Harden and the Sixers going head-to-head against Simmons (possibly) and the Nets in the first round of the playoffs.

That series would be wildly entertaining and polarizing as it is. Now you have the grievance on top of everything else? Basketball fans everywhere should cross their fingers that this ends up happening.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.

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