Ben Simmons’ holdout technically lasted 14 days, one week less than Doc Rivers’ hiatus from the Los Angeles Clippers in 1991.
While the circumstances were different, Rivers, now the 76ers’ coach, knows what it’s like to rejoin a team after taking a stand.
Back then, Rivers wanted to renegotiate his contract, which he said the Clippers had planned to do. Simmons’ desire is to be traded away from the Sixers entirely. And at one point, he was willing to sit out the entire season to prove a point.
But Simmons reported to the Wells Fargo Center parking lot Monday night to take a mandatory COVID-19 test. The Sixers hope he’ll return to the team once he clears protocol in five days. There are, however, other requirements before the point guard can return to play. Among them are Simmons agreeing to play and passing a physical.
Rivers knows what it’s like to walk back into a locker room after a holdout, assuming that’s what Simmons intends to do.
“It was great. I was home the whole time,” Rivers said of his holdout. “I was worried about getting fined. I got the money back obviously, and that day you could.”
Under the current collective bargaining agreement, players can be fined $2,500 for the first day of missed practice. The fine increases to $5,000 for the second day missed and $7,500 for the third day. The team has the ability to increase the fine every practice after that.
Simmons also lost $360,000 for each of the two preseason games he missed before Monday.
Simmons is set to make $33 million this season as part of the five-year, $146.6 million contract extension that began last season.
Back before the 1991-92 season, Rivers was in the third year of a six-year deal worth about $1.2 million per season. Los Angeles had acquired him from the Atlanta Hawks on June 26, 1991. Rivers maintained he was promised a negotiation, but the Clippers said said no such assurance was made and agreed only to talk with him.
So Rivers appeared the first day of training camp on Oct. 4, 1991 and left that night after learning the Clippers wouldn’t renegotiate his deal.
Rivers was fined $300 for each practice and $1,000 for each exhibition game he missed, bringing his total to $8,900.
He rejoined the team in time for its preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs on Oct. 25, 1991.
Rivers acknowledged the Simmons situation is now a different time with more media presence and the game being even more popular.
“Guys are actually famous now,” he said. “So I do think there’s so many more pressures than we had. It was easy to [hold out]. Much harder now.”