Ben Simmons let it be known that he wants out.
In a meeting with 76ers brass last week in Los Angeles, Simmons told team co-managing partner Josh Harris, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, general manager Elton Brand, and coach Doc Rivers that he no longer wants to remain a Sixer, according to multiple sources.
Sources said the three-time All-Star also does not intend to report to training camp.
A team spokesman declined to comment.
For the second time since December, the Sixers are unsuccessfully trying to trade Simmons, whose trade value has diminished. At the beginning of last season, they tried to send him to the Houston Rockets in exchange for James Harden. The Rockets ultimately traded Harden to the Brooklyn Nets.
The Sixers are having a tough time finding a team to meet their lofty trade demands.
The organization does not want to trade Simmons for less than what it believes is fair market value. The four told Simmons they wanted him to report to the start of training camp on Sept. 28 and be a part of the team.
One source said, however, that the Sixers’ inability to get fair market value isn’t Simmons’ fault.
Another source said there’s no shortage of teams still interested, but the problem is that Morey is demanding a king’s ransom.
Simmons is fully aware the Sixers can fine him for holding out and failing to show up to training camp. But a source said money will not play a role in the decision-making for Simmons, who has four years and $147 million remaining on his five-year deal.
Plus, fining Simmons could strain the Sixers’ relationship with his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. Paul has a who’s who of clients — players the Sixers might be interested in pursuing down the road in free agency.
When asked specifically whether he thought Simmons would come back at all, a source responded “No,” resolutely.
None of this should come as a surprise.
As The Inquirer noted on July 26, if Simmons really wants out, he could opt to be disruptive or not show up for training camp. The tactic has worked for many elite professional athletes across sports who want to be traded.
On Aug. 9, ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins said Simmons is willing to hold out of training camp as long as it takes to get traded.
Time will tell if the 25-year-old reports and/or if the team avoids what is bound to be a circus-like atmosphere by trading him in the weeks leading up to camp.
The belief around the league is that the Sixers have been holding out for six-time All-NBA point guard Damian Lillard to request a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers. But Lillard said, “I’m not leaving [Portland] — not right now at least” during an Instagram Live stream last Wednesday.
The Sixers’ best consolation could be circling back to the Blazers for a potential deal involving shooting guard CJ McCollum before the start of training camp. That trade would make sense for both teams.
In addition to fulfilling needs, the players have similar salaries. Simmons will make $33 million next season, while McCollum will receive $30.8 million.
The problem is, both teams might think they should get more in return.
McCollum, 29, could be the best option and a good pickup right before training camp with all things considered. In 528 NBA games, he has averaged 18.9 points and shot 39.8% on three-pointers. However, the eight-year veteran out of Lehigh has never been an All-Star in the tough Western Conference.
League sources believe the Sixers will have a tough time getting what they perceive as fair market value under the circumstances.
“Think about three months ago when the Sixers are willing to give up Ben Simmons. You are like, ‘Let’s see what we have to do to get him,’” said a Western Conference executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Now, the difference is Ben Simmons says he refuses to play for the Sixers. He wants to go to three California teams. There’s so much bad blood between him and the team.”
The executive said teams are not willing to give in to the Sixers’ steep asking price, knowing they have to move Simmons.
“The kid said he’s not going back,” the executive said. “I’m not giving you what you’re demanding. They really messed this up.”
A source believes the devaluing of Simmons began with Rivers’ comments following the Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals on June 20.
That’s when the coach, who has been one of Simmons’ biggest supporters and defenders, was asked by The Inquirer’s David Murphy if the No. 1 pick of the 2016 draft was capable of being a point guard on a championship-caliber team.
“I don’t know the answer to that right now,” Rivers responded on a night when Simmons finished with five points, 13 assists, and eight rebounds — and was not on the floor for the final 40 seconds of the 103-96 loss.
He attempted just four shots, making two. For the fourth straight game, Simmons did not attempt a shot in the fourth quarter. He played timidly, appearing fearful of going to the foul line, where he shot .333 (15-for-45) for the Atlanta series after shooting .357 (10-for-28) in the first round against Washington.
That became apparent with 3 minutes, 29 seconds remaining and the Sixers trailing, 88-86. Simmons drove to the basket past Danilo Gallinari, but passed up an open dunk underneath the basket, dishing the ball to Matisse Thybulle, who was fouled by John Collins. Thybulle made one of two free throws.
The day after wavering, Rivers did say that Simmons was salvageable. He said the Sixers would put together the right type of offseason workout plan to help correct Simmons’ shooting deficiencies. But a source said Simmons has not participated in a Sixers offseason workout plan.
The source believes it will be tough for Simmons to have a working relationship with the team moving forward. At the same time, the team isn’t trying to let its multifaceted player go for little in return.
The Sixers would definitely have a lot of holes to fill by getting rid of Simmons.
In addition to being the point guard, Simmons is a two-time NBA All-Defensive player, a third-team All-NBA selection, a small-ball center, and reserve power forward.
Can one envision Simmons returning to the Sixers for two months just to raise his trade value? With all the heat he’d likely receive from Sixers fans, he might benefit from a change of scenery.