For those who saw clips from the Philadelphia 76ers practice on Monday, it would have been reasonable to draw the conclusion that the forward Ben Simmons didn’t want to be there. One picture showed him practicing with his phone in his sweatpants pocket, and in a viral clip he was dribbling a basketball along the outskirts of the team’s post-practice huddle before making a hasty exit as soon as the huddle broke.
On Tuesday it was confirmed that Simmons does not have any interest in anything the 76ers are trying to accomplish this season. 76ers coach Doc Rivers told the media that he threw Ben Simmons out of practice because he thought that “he was a distraction.”
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the distraction was Rivers asked Simmons to participate in a defensive drill twice and twice Simmons refused. The 76ers have released a statement announcing that Simmons will be suspended for their season opener against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.
If you’re wondering what Joel Embiid thinks about all this, he let it be known that he is fed up.
“At this point, I don’t really care about that man,” Embiid told the media after practice. “He does whatever he wants… our job is not to babysit somebody.”
Last year, current Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden was in a position similar to Simmons with the Houston Rockets. He wanted to be traded with years left on his contract but no deal could be reached with the Nets. Harden showed up late to Rockets’ training camp, after attending a birthday party for rapper Lil’ Baby back when there was no widely available COVID-19 vaccine. Then when he did participate in practice Charania reported that he threw a basketball at Rockets guard Jae’Sean Tate.
Unlike Simmons, Harden played in the Rockets season opener in 2020, but that was three days after he was fined $50,000 for not following the league’s protocol by going to a packed nightclub, again when there was no widely available vaccine. The situation climaxed following the Rockets ninth game, a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Harden took the podium after the game, said that the team wasn’t good enough, he didn’t think the situation could be fixed and abruptly left. He was traded to the Nets the very next day.
So how is the pouting play going to work for Simmons?
He needs to be traded as soon as possible, preferably before the close of business today. Once people are willing to besmirch their good name to get out of a situation they have to go. If they don’t respect themselves no one around them will respect them either.
The difference with Harden and Simmons, however, is that Harden is one of the top players in the NBA and one of the best scorers in its history. He might miss some shots in big games, but he will play with the aggression that is required of a professional athlete. The world recently watched Simmons not take a shot in the fourth quarter of four consecutive playoff games. His response to that was to ghost the 76ers and show up to work the next season simply to collect paychecks until he gets traded, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski he’s been fined so much that he hasn’t received a dime.
Harden won over the locker room in Brooklyn over easily because they knew what they were getting from him. No team can be quite sure what they’re getting from Simmons, and most importantly, they don’t know if they will be able to depend on him to perform his job at the most important times.
So Simmons can continue to sully his reputation while the 76ers look for a trade partner, and it appears that he will. Hopefully he knows that he is not James Harden, and whatever team he plays for next, he had better be willing to WORK to earn their respect because not one person who follows or works for the NBA will simply give it to him.