An NBA great is claiming there has been “sabotage” in the Ben Simmons trade saga as rumours emerged of a shock development.
Rumours are continuing to swirl about Ben Simmons as his messy divorce from the 76ers steps towards a dramatic finish.
Three months on from Philadelphia’s elimination from the NBA Playoffs and the explosive aftermath that followed their Game 7 loss to Atlanta, Simmons and his team are in the thick of a saga that has captivated fans around the globe.
Sixers coach Doc Rivers on Thursday confirmed Simmons has requested to be traded following reports the Australian is determined to never come back to Philadelphia and is prepared to be fined and suspended for failing to show up to pre-season camp.
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Rivers’ grovelling, public attempt to mend the relationship breakdown comes after reports the team is genuine in its desire to bring Simmons back, having recognised that no desirable trade offers have eventuated since a trade was first explored in the days that followed their season-ending loss.
A rumour nobody saw coming emerged on Friday with a report Western Conference contender Denver is also monitoring the situation with Simmons and are seen by some figures within the league to be a “sleeper” option to unlock the trade, according to Sam Amico of HoopesWire.com.
The report also details there is a feeling Simmons “will be traded within the week” with the Sixers stuck between a rock and a hard place.
The 25-year-old has been linked with an absurd number of NBA teams previously and the Sixers have reportedly been exploring every option.
The Nuggets join Cleveland, Minnesota, Golden State, Toronto, Houston, Washington, Sacramento, Portland and San Antonio in being reported to have entertained the possibility of trading for Simmons.
With nothing eventuating, it appears unavoidable the Sixers will have to move Simmons for a less-than-desirable return.
It’s why former NBA player and star commentator Jalen Rose said on Friday Simmons is “sabotaging” the Sixers’ season.
Rose also told ESPN’s Jalen and Jacoby trading Simmons was always going to happen eventually because of Simmons and All Star teammate Joel Embiid being unable to get the best out of each other.
“Their skill sets just don’t match. I’ve said this for a while. They will move Ben Simmons,” he said.
“The problem is, they will not get equal value. What he’s also doing is sabotaging their season, because he’s saying, ‘You don’t think I’m I championship-level point guard? OK, y’all go ahead without me. Go right ahead and let me see what you look like now’. And that’s what Ben Simmons is going to do.”
It comes after Rivers’ attempt to re-write history was called out publicly on Thursday.
The veteran, championship-winning coach attempted to clarify his infamous comment in the minutes that followed the team’s elimination from the NBA Playoffs in June where he appeared to question Simmons’ ability to ever lead a team to an NBA championship.
On an interview with ESPN on Thursday Rivers said his comment was taken out of context.
Rivers had been asked in the immediate aftermath of Simmons’ infamous Playoffs meltdown whether he believed Simmons could ever be a championship-winning point guard, to which he responded: “I don’t know.”
He now says his response was made in reference to him addressing those lines of questioning so soon after their loss to Atlanta in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Playoffs series.
All Star teammate Embiid also said after the game Simmons’ failure to take an open dunk was the reason the team lost.
Rivers says he told Simmons the next day that his comment had been twisted.
It is the first time the coach has tried to refute the portrayal of his press conference, which was held three months ago.
It’s why his U-turn doesn’t pass the smell test with some local reporters.
Kyle Neubeck of the Philly Voice wrote: “It’s not even close to what he said” and suggest the best way to deal with the Simmons situation was by not “brazenly lying”.
“Whether you buy Rivers’ retro-fitted explanation or not, the only person whose opinion matters on the subject is Simmons, whose interpretation of the quote contributed to his desire to seek a new situation this offseason and the distance he has kept from the organisation since the season ended,” Neubeck wrote.
Fox Sports radio host Jason Smith also wrote on Twitter that Rivers is responsible for the entire mess.
“Doc Rivers ruined everything with that comment. He ruined the relationship with Ben Simmons. He ruined his time with the 76ers, and he ruined whatever value in a trade they can get,” Smith said.
“I told you last night Doc Rivers was the one responsible for the Ben Simmons situation. Why do you think he was on the media tour today? The Sixers wanted him on TV, trying to fall on the sword & saying, ‘We love Ben! I was misquoted!’ What a load of c***.”
The timeline of saga’s beginning has also been brought back into the spotlight by a report Simmons had made his decision to leave the team just days after the season-ending loss.
Sports columnist Tom Moore wrote in The Bucks County Courier Times Simmons first asked to be traded when his agent Rich Paul met with senior team officials just four days after the defeat to Atlanta at a draft combine event.
Earlier reports claimed the Sixers had also begun exploring trades for Simmons before the meeting took place. Which came first remains uncertain.
Moore’s report also claims the Sixers’ new stance on trying to convince Simmons to stay with the team is much more than empty words with the team recognising it is best off if Simmons can be coaxed into returning — especially since no desirable trade offer has eventuated.
Rivers confirmed on First Take that Simmons met with the Sixers front office, including himself, recently to inform the team he wanted a trade.
“Yeah, I mean it was a good conversation and he gave us reasons which we obviously didn’t agree with,” Rivers said.
“We’re always going to do what’s best for the team, but I can tell you up front, we’d love to get Ben back and if we can’t we’re going to try to do that. Ben has a long contract. It’s in our hands and we want him back.”
In early August, it was reported Simmons “cut off communication” with most of the Sixers organisation — and that any exchanges were being handled by his agent.
It’s not just the 76ers dealing with the fallout from the Simmons saga though. Golden State owner Joe Lacob has been fined $US50,000 ($AUD70,000) for violating the NBA’s anti-tampering rules with comments he made about Simmons to the media.
Lacob told the San Francisco Chronicle the Warriors weren’t looking to recruit Simmons after rumours emerged the two parties could be keen to link up.