The Ben Simmons situation has taken yet another ugly turn.
On Tuesday, the 76ers announced that Simmons has been suspended for one game because of “conduct detrimental to the team” and will not play in Philadelphia’s regular-season opener against New Orleans. This is just the latest chapter of what has become an increasingly tumultuous relationship between a Sixers team that wants Simmons to play and a three-time All-Star who doesn’t seem all that interested in suiting up for the only NBA franchise he has ever known.
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So, why did the 76ers decide that they had to suspend Simmons? And what comes next in this strange saga?
What did Ben Simmons do at the 76ers’ practice?
Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers kicked Simmons out of Tuesday’s practice because of a “refusal to participate in the next stage of the session,” according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who noted that Simmons has not been consistently engaged since his return to the team. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Rivers asked Simmons to join a defensive drill multiple times, but Simmons refused to participate.
“At the end of the day, as a coach, I have to protect the team,” Rivers said. “The team’s first, and then we get to the other part. So, today, I just thought it was more important to focus on the team.”
Even before he rejoined the team for practices, Simmons had been “going through the motions” during individual workouts, according to Philly Voice’s Kyle Neubeck.
What does ‘conduct detrimental to the team’ mean?
The term “conduct detrimental to the team” covers a lot of ground, but it is typically used to describe some sort of action taken by a player that is not done in the “best interests of the team or the league,” per the collective bargaining agreement between the National Basketball Players Association and the NBA.
Here is the relevant section from the CBA:
The Player agrees: (i) to give his best services, as well as his loyalty, to the Team, and to play basketball only for the Team and its assignees; (ii) to be neatly and fully attired in public; (iii) to conduct himself on and off the court according to the highest standards of honesty, citizenship, and sportsmanship; and (iv) not to do anything that is materially detrimental or materially prejudicial to the best interests of the Team or the League.
For any violation of Team rules, any breach of any provision of this Contract, or for any conduct impairing the faithful and thorough discharge of the duties incumbent upon the Player, the Team may reasonably impose fines and/or suspensions on the Player in accordance with the terms of the CBA.
Will the 76ers trade Ben Simmons?
As much as Simmons would like to find his way out of Philadelphia, it’s unlikely that he will be moved anytime soon. Wojnarowski reported Tuesday that the Sixers have “remained steadfast” in their approach and will only trade Simmons for a player who will allow them to compete for a championship.
Multiple reports have indicated that Philly’s dream scenario is pairing Damian Lillard with Joel Embiid, but the Trail Blazers star has been adamant about his desire to win a championship in Portland.
Damian Lillard on speculation picking up if the team starts slow: “I’ll answer that the same way I answered it on media day. I’m not leaving Portland. … It’s an easy thing and a popular thing to say but it’s not gonna happen.” pic.twitter.com/zJJbSVuX8j
— Sean Highkin (@highkin) October 19, 2021
The changing Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons relationship
After the Hawks eliminated the 76ers from the 2021 NBA playoffs, Embiid called Simmons’ decision to pass out of an open dunk in the fourth quarter a “turning point” in the contest. He didn’t say much about Simmons after that series until he tweeted out his support for his fellow “Process” pick in early September.
Sources “Trust me bro”!! Stop using my name to push people’s agendas. I love and hate drama. I love playing with Ben. Stats don’t lie. He’s an amazing player and we all didn’t get the job done. It’s on me personally. I hope everyone is back cuz we know we’re good enough to win https://t.co/1kq9VI9byE
— Joel “Troel” Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) September 1, 2021
However, Embiid changed his tune by the end of the month, saying that Simmons’ training camp holdout was “weird, disappointing, borderline kind of disrespectful to all the guys that are out here fighting for their lives.” He took it a step further after Tuesday’s now-infamous practice session.
“At this point, I don’t care about that man, honestly. He does whatever he wants,” Embiid said. “That’s not my job. That’s those guys’ jobs. I’m only focused on trying to make the team better, win some games, play hard every night, trying to lead the guys that we have here. And I’m sure they feel the same way because our chemistry has been excellent despite everything that’s been happening the last few months.
“So, yeah, like I said, I don’t really care.”
If Simmons continues floating through team activities and Embiid continues voicing his frustration, the environment could become truly toxic. Would that accelerate trade talks? Or would Philadelphia’s front office still refuse to back down?
All of this drama, and the Sixers haven’t even played their first real game. Welcome to the new season.