It turns out the only thing Ben Simmons is more scared of than shooting is losing money.
If he had a tail, it would be curled tightly between his legs. Reports say he’s back in town, if only for a little while, as his fines exceed $1 million. One league source hinted that the NBA, faced with a dire precedent, might have gotten involved.
Klutch, my butt.
Simmons, who turned down a dunk in Game 7 of the Eastern Confidence semifinals, subsequently refused to report to work three months later. He and his agent, LeBron James mouthpiece Rich Paul, who runs powerful Klutch Sports, tried to force the Sixers to trade him — and to do so with his worth the lowest it possibly could be. He made Carson Wentz look like a principled hero.
Rather than face the team he betrayed and the fan base he enraged, he told the Sixers that they had to trade him. And he didn’t care how bad the deal was. He just wanted out.
That part hasn’t changed. He’ll probably never play another game in a Sixers uniform. He lacks that sort of courage. He lacks that sort of character.
However, now that he‘s back in Philadelphia, he won’t be fined $360,000 per game anymore. This isn’t a change of heart; it’s a realization that Sixers president Daryl Morey is nobody’s punk.
So, this is about the only thing Ben Simmons has ever cared about: Ben Simmons’ bank account.
Still, this is good news for the 76ers.
An ancillary benefit for both sides: If he returns to practices, Simmons can be seen working out with his team, getting into basketball shape, and proving to potential suitors that he is at least as valuable as he was last season. If he shows any improvement in his jump shot form or his free-throw ability, they might even be able to get something approaching what his value is.
And let’s not be foolish. He’s the best perimeter defender in basketball, he’s an elite fast-break weapon, and he generally stays healthy. For any team that needs a gifted power forward, he is a precious commodity.
And who knows? Maybe he gets back in the practice facility that the Process built, nostalgia overwhelms him, and he relents and decides he loves Philly as much as he said he did.
Maybe waves of maturity engulf him and he decides he’ll earn the money he’s already been paid: the Sixers gave him 25% of his 2021 salary in July, or $8.25 million, but held the 25% due Oct. 1 in escrow so as to assess him the fines he deserves.
Maybe a cascade of pragmatism will overwhelm him and he’ll realize that, in order to be traded, he’ll have to show the rest of the NBA that he’s not going to pull this garbage at his next stop.
Because, if he plays, and if he plays hard, and if he takes an occasional jump shot, and maybe one three-pointer per game, his value will skyrocket.
Because, frankly, at this point Simmons not only isn’t worth Blazers superstar Damian Lillard, he’s not worth Washington All-Star Bradley Beal, and he might even not be worth Lillard’s wingman, CJ McCollum.
At any rate, Ben Simmons blinked.
He had a million reasons.
So, he blinked.