Is Ben Simmons Cooperating With the Philadelphia 76ers to Get His Much-Desired Trade or Is This Just a Marshawn Lynch Move?

On the latest episode of As the City of Brotherly Love Turns, disgruntled All-Star Ben Simmons talked to a mental health specialist recommended by the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s the most recent development in a months-long standoff between the unhappy superstar and the team. That Simmons is working with the 76ers is commendable. But as this drama drags out, it’s also difficult not to take a cynical view.

Philadelphia fined Simmons for his training camp and preseason holdout. The financial penalties ended when Simmons said he needed to attend to his mental health before considering coming back to play. At least the fines stopped for a while.

The Philadelphia 76ers once again levied fines against Ben Simmons

On Nov. 5, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported the Philadelphia 76ers had resumed fining Ben Simmons, who they said was not cooperating with the team’s medical staff.

The Sixers docked Simmons his $360,000 game check for their Nov. 4 victory over the Detroit Pistons. They cited Simmons’ refusal to provide details of his mental health meetings nor consult with anyone recommended by the team. The three-time All-Star has been meeting with mental health professionals through the National Basketball Players Association.

But on Nov. 8, Simmons met with a team-recommended specialist, according to Wojnarowski. Philadelphia also resumed fining the player for not participating in basketball-related activities. The team cited strength training and film study as responsibilities Simmons neglected.

The tensions between Simmons and the 76ers began after Philadelphia exited the playoffs in the second round last season. The upstart Atlanta Hawks stunned the Sixers with a Game 7 victory at Wells Fargo Center, a game in which Simmons didn’t attempt a shot in the fourth quarter. That was a series-long issue for Simmons, who went 0-of-0 from the floor over the final five games of the Eastern Conference semifinal matchup.

After Game 7, superstar center Joel Embiid and coach Doc Rivers offered only lukewarm support for Simmons. He responded by cutting off most communication with team officials and demanding a trade.

The relationship between Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers is at the point where it's hard not to be cynical
The relationship between Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers is at the point where it’s hard not to be cynical. | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Because the relationship between Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers reached such a tense state, his motivation for meeting with the specialist recommended by the team is open to interpretation.

Is this a legitimate effort by Simmons to mend the relationship to restore his trade value to a point Philadelphia president of basketball operations Daryl Morey can get at least some of the return he seeks?

But the cynical take on the situation is that Simmons is — to quote former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch during Super Bowl media day festivities several years ago — just there to keep from getting fined.

There have been no public statements from Simmons since the standoff began last summer. Surrogates have occasionally talked to the media, but nothing has leaked since the player cited concerns about his mental health.

Simmons’ motives could indeed be genuine. He’s not said anything to the contrary. But his actions during the offseason, such as putting Philadelphia-area properties on the market, can be construed as power plays. He wants out of Philly, reinforcing that message with his behavior.

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Ben Simmons hasn’t played since June 20. He’s missed all 11 games the Philadelphia 76ers have played, along with their four preseason contests.

Shams Charania of The Athletic reported interest in Simmons from the Boston Celtics, a report contradicted by Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald via Twitter.

Meanwhile, Morey’s last statements on the situation didn’t sound like someone seeking a quick solution.

Simmons has four years and $147 million remaining on the five-year supermax extension he signed in 2019. That means the 76ers have more leverage at this point. Simmons isn’t going anywhere until Morey decides he is.

Dec. 15 is a date that looms large for all parties concerned. That is when many of the free agents signed in the offseason become eligible to be traded. The longer the situation plays out, the more likely it becomes that a team sees Simmons as the missing piece necessary for a playoff run.

That enables Morey to at least get closer to the return he seeks in a trade.

We’re approaching five months since the Philadelphia 76ers and Ben Simmons hit this fork in the road. How much longer it drags on is anyone’s guess at this point.

Contract information courtesy of Spotrac.