Ben Simmons kicked out of Sixers practice, suspended for conduct detrimental after being unwilling to engage
Doc Rivers still holds out hope that Simmons will return and give full effort: “Every day, every single moment, I’m going to give Ben a chance to join the team."
So much for Ben Simmons’ much-anticipated press conference.
Instead of speaking to the media as expected Tuesday, the 76ers’ disgruntled point guard was thrown out of practice and suspended one game for conduct detrimental to the team, meaning he will miss Wednesday’s season opener at the New Orleans Pelicans.
A league source said Simmons was kicked out for failing to engage during drills. Sixers coach Doc Rivers had an exchange with Simmons about his lack of effort. The conversation ended with Rivers asking Simmons if wanted to go home or be more engaged, the source said. So the three-time All-Star left.
This was only the latest episode of the Simmons Saga.
“It wasn’t a big deal,” Rivers said. “I told him he should leave then, and we just went on with practice.”
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Rivers said he is unsure if this will become a lingering issue and that this wasn’t something that had been building. Should the team practice Thursday, he expects Simmons to be there.
“Every day, every single moment, I’m going to give Ben a chance to join the team and be part of the team,” Rivers said. “He’s under contract to be part of the team, so that’s not going to change.
“Sometimes it happens quick, and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve been in both situations and I’m fine with that. But at the end of the day as a coach, I have to protect the team.”
So how are Simmons’ actions impacting the team? One would think Simmons’ behavior would be a major distraction on the eve of the season opener. Not so for the players, according to Joel Embiid.
“At this point, I don’t care about that man,” the star center said. “Honestly, he does whatever he wants. That’s not my job. That’s those guys’ [the team officials’] jobs. I’m only focused on trying to make the team better, win some games, play hard every night, try 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 has been happening over the last few months.”
The last few months have been filled with drama surrounding Simmons.
The Sixers were notified after the season through his agent that Simmons wanted to be traded. The team made it known he was available in trade, but demanded equal value in return. Simmons had no interaction with the Sixers’ brass until late August when Rivers, managing partner Josh Harris, general manager Elton Brand, and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey met with him in Los Angeles. At that point, he personally demaned a trade and told them that he wasn’t coming to training camp.
Simmons made good on his word through almost all of preseason before ending his 14-day holdout on Oct. 11, when he showed up for a COVID-19 test and entered the league’s health and safety protocols.
But Simmons, who has four years and $147 million left on his max contract, was still fined $1.4 million for missing all four of the Sixers’ preseason games. The team also imposed fines for missed meetings and practices.
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He has since participated in two practices and was seen on the court. Simmons appeared emotionally detached during drills when media entered the gym on Monday and things took a turn for the worse on Tuesday.
None of this should come as a surprise. Sources have said the Sixers wouldn’t get the same Simmons if he returned. They added that Simmons’ relationship with the Sixers is done.
However, the team’s position has remained consistent as it does not intend to trade Simmons just to make a trade. The Sixers want to remain a championship contender and believe he gives them the best chance to win one. So they’re only willing to trade Simmons for someone who will keep them in the championship hunt.
But how long can the Sixers keep up with this circus before it impacts the team?
“Hopefully, it doesn’t,” Rivers said. “We are in a good place right now. Again, I have to focus on our team, not what could happen.”
Rivers maintains his team is focused. Embiid, Seth Curry, and Andre Drummond echoed that theme while addressing the media.
But the relationship with Simmons remains strained. Embiid and Simmons have not talked since the point guard rejoined the team. Sources had also said Simmons’ relationship with the Sixers and pairing with Embiid has run its course.
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But Embiid said Simmons is not his responsibility when asked if there’s any part of him that wants to talk sense into Simmons.
“I’ll be willing to babysit if someone wants to listen, but that’s not my job,” he said. “That’s out of my control, focus on what’s here, and try to win some games.”
To do that, Embiid realizes that one must have a solid relationship with teammates. That’s something he says he has with the rest of the team. But Embiid noted that the Sixers get paid for their on-court performances.
“We don’t get paid,” he said, “to come out here and try to babysit somebody.”