The Philadelphia 76ers did not pay Ben Simmons the $8.25 million — 25% of his contract — that he was owed Friday and placed that money into an escrow account, sources told ESPN.
Moving forward, the 76ers will deduct any fines that Simmons accrues as the season progresses. If, or when, Simmons shows up, he will be given the money that is remaining in it, sources told ESPN.
The next line of demarcation in this saga will come Monday, when the 76ers play their first preseason game in Toronto against the Raptors. If Simmons doesn’t return to the team before that game, he will be fined roughly $227,000 — the same number Simmons will be fined for every game he misses going forward.
Sources told ESPN that in the meeting between Simmons and Philadelphia’s leadership last month, the team made Simmons aware that this was a possibility — and, at the time, Simmons responded by saying that he understood that, and that it would not change his stance either on reporting to Philadelphia or rescinding his trade request.
“We’re in it for the long haul,” a source close to Simmons told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne this week.
When asked about the possibility of withholding this money from Simmons — who already received another $8.25 million on Aug. 2, as his contract states he will get two 25% chunks of his contract before the season begins — Philadelphia’s president of basketball operations, Daryl Morey, refused to say what would exactly happen but did leave this possibility open.
“I’d say we’re not going to talk about the specifics of fines or things like that, but I will say it’s pretty clearly spelled out in the CBA and in his contract what happens,” Morey said during his preseason news conference Monday.
As the 76ers returned to the court this week — and Simmons did not — the temperature on this situation has only risen.
Morey tried to spin it in a positive direction during his news conference Monday, comparing it to the tumultuous offseason between Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers — only for Rodgers to return and, the night before that news conference, lead Green Bay to a last-second win over the San Francisco 49ers.
“I think there’s a lot of hope,” Morey said. “I would say I watched last night a player lead his team to victory when a thousand pounds of digital ink were spilled on how much he would never play for that team again.
“Look, every situation is different, but we have a lot of optimism that we can make it work here.”
Superstar center Joel Embiid also initially expressed optimism about reuniting with Simmons, saying he was disappointed that the situation had reached the point it had between the two sides but that he still believes he could win with him as his co-star.
“Honestly, I would probably say I’m disappointed,” Embiid said. “Because I — look, obviously we haven’t won anything, but just going by what has been said through the media and you guys tweeting on your sources and stuff, I would look at it in the way that, look at what we’ve been able to do. … In the regular season we’ve been so good, and so dominant, that we know it’s working. … I’m disappointed that we’re in this situation. … I’m just disappointed he’s not here, because he knows it, too. He knows we can win together.”
In the wake of a subsequent report in The Athletic that Simmons had decided he couldn’t, actually, win alongside Embiid, the big man shot back during a long answer when asked about it by reporters after practice Thursday afternoon.
“The situation is disappointing, borderline kind of disrespectful to all the guys that are out here fighting for their lives,” Embiid told reporters at the team’s practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, going on to say that the idea the Sixers hadn’t built their team around Simmons was also incorrected.
“I feel like our teams have been built, whether it’s the shooting need or stretch 5 and all that stuff, I feel like [Simmons] always had it here. And we still have it,” Embiid said, before listing all the 3-point shooters on the roster. “… Our teams have always been built around his needs.”
“It was kind of surprising to see,” Embiid added, referring to the report. “We’ll say that, even going back to the reason we signed A.l. [Allen Iverson]. We got rid of Jimmy [Butler], which I still think it was a mistake, just to make sure [Simmons] needed the ball in his hands. That’s the decision they made. Like I said, it is surprising.”
ESPN’s Bobby Marks contributed to this story.