Simmons has remained absent for the entirety of Philadelphia’s 31-20 season. While many have an opinion on the matter, O’Neal has become one of the guard’s more vocal critics. And he’s not slowing down, recently attacking the mercurial star for wasting the millions of dollars being handed to him.
Shaquille O’Neal recently said he doesn’t respect Ben Simmons
Last week, Inside the NBA had the privilege of unveiling this year’s starters for the All-Star Game. Among the notables was Joel Embiid, Philadelphia’s superstar center and MVP frontrunner.
O’Neal, a former All-Star center, offered high praise for Embiid. But it quickly turned into an assault on Simmons, who is holding out in the hopes he’ll be traded.
“The difference between [Embiid] and his soft partner is he can take criticism without being a crybaby and he still wants to play,” Shaq explained. “Because me and Charles [Barkley], we’ve been on him. We tell him to his face what he needs to do. He didn’t cry, say ‘I want to be traded’ or complain about mistreatment, and that’s the difference. That’s why I like him and respect him. The other guy, I don’t respect.”
For what it’s worth, Embiid and the 76ers are getting around just fine without the three-time All-Star. Thanks in large part to the Process’ MVP-caliber play, Philly is just 1.5 games out of the top seed in the Eastern Conference. And it’s not exactly in a rush to get Simmons back.
“I feel pretty good, and I don’t think we’ve played our best basketball yet,” Embiid told The Athletic last month. “We still got a long way to go. We’re missing guys here and there that could really help us. There’s really no urgency to change anything. I think we got everything we need. We’re gonna keep on going, and I’m happy.”
Shaq feels Simmons is giving highly-paid players a bad rap
It’s not uncommon to see superstars hold out for financial purposes. That’s not exactly the case with Simmons, who’s in the second year of his five-year, $177 million extension.
By not playing, Simmons is leaving millions of dollars on the table. The disgruntled star has accrued upwards of $19 million in fines and hasn’t cleared a paycheck since receiving $8.25 million on Oct. 1.
His callous attitude toward money gave Shaq another bone to pick with the 25-year-old (h/t: The Big Podcast with Shaq).
“Magic paved the way for Mike. They weren’t making any money. Mike paved the way for me to get all that bread I was getting. I paved the way for Garnett. … Ben Simmons [is] messing the money up. First of all, they already think we’re spoiled. They already think we don’t deserve it. You’re making $40 million and the only reason you’re not playing is because your coach called you out. You’re making us look bad.”Shaquille O’Neal
The Hall of Famer also revealed how after his recent takedown of Simmons on TNT, the Sixers guard sent him a direct message to explain his side of the story. However, Shaq wouldn’t reveal the details of his private conversation.
“All I said was, ‘You’re leaving your men out there [and] you need to play,'” O’Neal said. “And he said some things but I’m not going to elaborate what he said because that’s not cool.”
Holding onto Simmons would risk wasting Embiid’s remarkable season
By now, it’s obvious Shaq is ready for the Simmons drama to be over. But the 76ers are running out of time to avoid a wild and unfortunate scenario.
The trade deadline is merely one week away and Philadelphia is at a crossroads. It could either trade Simmons, even if it’s below his perceived value, or it could stand still and hold onto him for a summer trade.
The latter option makes a little bit of sense given the team’s reported interest in James Harden. But basically fining an absent Simmons all season does nothing to help the Sixers immediately. Worst of all, it would actively undermine the spectacular season Embiid is having and potentially cost them a chance to capitalize with a championship.
Even though the 25-year-old has critics like Shaq, there are still teams willing to take on Simmons and allow him to flourish in a new setting. For the sake of him and the team, the 76ers should attempt to make that happen.