While he’s yet to hit the hardwood, Ben Simmons has still managed to play a major part in the NBA’s postseason drama. After nearly a year on the sidelines, the Brooklyn Nets guard was reportedly pushing to return for Game 4. As of Sunday, April 24, however, things took a turn. The big Australian suffered a setback, keeping him out of the action.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Nets organization was surprised and confused by the update. As you might expect, Stephen A. Smith also got pretty fired up about the news.
On Sunday, the ESPN talking head tore into Simmons but also raised a larger point. In Stephen A.’s mind, the guard is also creating a potential nightmare for every other NBA player.
Stephen A. Smith suggests that the ‘Ben Simmons rule’ could come up while negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement
Stephen A. Smith, as we all know, is never shy about tearing a player to shreds. That’s exactly what happened on Sunday after news broke that Ben Simmons wouldn’t be ready for Brooklyn’s fourth postseason game.
“I feel bad for anybody who was his teammate,” Smith said. “He quit on LSU. He quit on the Philadelphia 76ers. And now, he ain’t showing up for the Brooklyn Nets. We could point to all the excuses, all the rationale behind it that we want to. I do recall, despite him not playing, he still filed a grievance to collect $20 million that he has not earned. This is one of the most pathetic situations that I have ever seen in my life. He ain’t going to war, he ain’t going to the octagon, he’s not going in the boxing ring. It’s pulling teeth to get this man to play basketball. It’s pathetic. It’s sad.”
While that’s already rather scathing, Stephen A. kept going. In his mind, Simmons could also be creating a problem for every NBA player when it’s time to renegotiate the collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA).
“At the end of the day, when the NBA gets to the collective bargaining table, and they go after the players in terms of a pay-for-play stipulation in the collective bargaining agreement, it’s going to be called ‘the Ben Simmons rule.'”
While cutting guaranteed contracts won’t be easy, the Ben Simmons situation does seem to be taking its toll
For those who aren’t up on the finer details of collective bargaining agreements, the NBA and NBPA’s current deal will expire after the 2023-24 season. While it’s unclear if a “Ben Simmons rule” will be on the table, it’s safe to assume that it won’t be an easy negotiation.
From the league’s perspective, it’s easy to see the logic behind cutting guaranteed contracts. The NFL has non-guaranteed deals, and we know that Adam Silver has voiced concerns about players missing games for “load management.” With that being said, though, touching the players’ collective money is probably a non-starter. If guaranteed money is coming off the table, there will have to be some compensation, whether it’s in terms of increasing the size of a max contract or tying guarantees to some level of seniority, to make both parties whole.
It’s also worth noting that, in early March, Adrian Wojnarowski (h/t CBS Sports) said that the MLB’s lockout didn’t foreshadow an NBA lockout. Ramona Shelburne also noted that “They have an interest in not having another lockout.” That would seem to suggest that the league wouldn’t die on the guaranteed contracts hill, but it’s unclear what will happen by the summer of 2024.
With all of that being said, though, it does seem like the Ben Simmons situation is starting to wear on those around the guard. Steve Nash’s comments about the guard seem to suggest a frustration; no coach, no matter how relaxed he may be, wants to be in limbo every week. On a larger organizational level, Woj said that “Simmons’ admission [that he couldn’t play in Game 4] at the team practice facility was met with surprise and disappointment.”
The ESPN insider also noted that Simmons’ grievance with the 76ers organization is still unresolved. “The NBA and NBPA have been at odds on the issue, and now arbitration could set a precedent on how future matters of mental health and contracts might be handled,” Wojnarowski added. If one precedent gets set, that could embolden the league to push harder when it comes time to negotiate.
All of that is to say that, as far as we can tell from the outside, Simmons’ absence does seem like a simmering source of discontent. With that being said, though, multiple parties are frustrated with the guard after a year on the sidelines. If he’s still out of action when the NBA and the NBPA head to the bargaining table, something might have to give. That something could be guaranteed money, at least in some form.