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The Philadelphia 76ers and agent Rich Paul are reportedly close on a resolution that would have Ben Simmons return to the team “in the near future.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday that discussions are “ongoing” between the two sides, but the expectation is Simmons will end his holdout. The Sixers are likely to continue pursuing trade options while the three-time All-Star plays for the franchise.
Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported Simmons could return as soon as this week.
Simmons has held out all of training camp and missed the team’s first two preseason games. The Sixers placed $8.25 million of salary due to Simmons in an escrow account and fined him roughly $360,000 for each missed preseason game.
Simmons is already out around $720,000, and he stands to lose even more. The Sixers host their third preseason game Monday night, at which point Simmons would be subject to another $360,000 fine.
It’s possible that waiving the fines will be one of the conditions for his return.
Wojnarowski reported Simmons has yet to even speak with team officials, with Paul handling most of the talks. Simmons informed Sixers brass that he wanted a trade and had no plans of reporting to the team at an August meeting in Los Angeles.
The Sixers have been open to trading Simmons throughout the offseason but have not found a deal to their liking.
Simmons’ trade value around the NBA is at its nadir after a ghastly postseason performance in which he shot 34.2 percent from the free-throw line and completely lost confidence on offense. In Game 7 of the Sixers’ second-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, Simmons passed up a wide-open dunk attempt in fear of being fouled.
Simmons’ lack of offensive progression and his known desire to move on led to a situation where the Sixers were looking at 25 cents on the dollar in any trade—the exact type of move president of basketball operations Daryl Morey doesn’t make. Morey has publicly said the team wants Simmons back despite the controversy.
“Ben is a very good player, a big part of this team,” Morey told reporters last month. “We are disappointed he’s not here. We’re making our choices, but we’re excited about the players who are here. We’re going to focus on them, and we’re taking our journey to be a championship team. We don’t know exactly what that will be.
“In terms of what trades or non-trades, I only have one focus, and that’s to do what gives us the best chance to win a championship.”
While all parties acknowledge the Sixers are better with a focused Simmons in the lineup, it’s hard to see this situation working long term. Simmons has eroded what little goodwill was left in the Philadelphia fanbase.
Joel Embiid has struggled to hide his own frustration with the situation. Many in the Sixers locker room likely feel the same way.
If Simmons does return to the Sixers, he won’t be doing so in a particularly welcoming environment. It would be a surprise if he isn’t heavily booed during his first game back in Philadelphia.