NBA

Simmons return to 76ers appears more likely after talks

By Sports Desk October 11, 2021

Weeks after reports emerged saying Ben Simmons had no future with the Philadelphia 76ers, both sides appear focused on an agreement that would have the All-Star rejoin the team. 

ESPN and The Athletic said on Monday that Simmons' representatives have been engaged in talks with 76ers management for the past few days and made progress in ending the Australian's holdout. 

The situation has improved to the point that ESPN reported Simmons could soon speak directly to team officials, which he has not done since reiterating his trade demands in late August. 

A potential agreement for Simmons to return to head coach Doc Rivers' squad does not necessarily mean he will be with the team for the long haul, but getting the guard back on the court could make it easier for Philadelphia to trade him. 

Simmons is due to be paid $33million this season and will have three years and $114m remaining on his deal after that. 

Those numbers combined with Simmons' abysmal showing in last season's playoffs have left Philadelphia with minimal leverage in the trade market. 

Across Games 5, 6 and 7 of the 76ers' Eastern Conference semi-final series against the Hawks, Simmons averaged just 6.3 points from 4.7 field goal attempts.

The 25-year-old attempted only one shot in the fourth quarter of the final six games of the series against the Hawks, while he passed up a dunk that would have tied the game in the fourth quarter of Game 7. 

His 34.2 per cent free-throw shooting throughout the playoffs was by far the worst rate of any player with 10 attempts or more, while he took just one shot in clutch situations.

In four seasons with the Sixers, Simmons has averaged 15.9 points per game in the regular season, yet he has attempted only 34 shots from three-point range and made just 59.7 per cent from the foul line.

Should the parties come to an agreement quickly, the earliest Simmons could feature in a game would be Friday's preseason finale against the Detroit Pistons.

The 76ers open the regular season on October 20 against the New Orleans Pelicans. 

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    Philadelphia 76ers general manager Daryl Morey says the Ben Simmons saga could be drawn out for four years as he remains unflinching in the standoff.

    Simmons was suspended by the Sixers for conduct detrimental to the team before failing to appear at an individual workout on Thursday, following the side's season-opening 117-97 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

    Three-time NBA All-Star Simmons has demanded a trade amid criticism following last season's shock playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks. He was absent from Philadelphia for the first two weeks of preseason work before showing up on October 11 to begin fulfilling COVID-19 protocols that would allow him to re-join the championship-chasing franchise.

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    Morey added on Thursday that the Sixers would not trade Simmons as they were not satisfied what they could get in return would help them win an NBA title with their window open now. As a result, Morey said the icy situation could drag on.

    "You're going to think I'm kidding, I'm not, this could be four years," Morey told the Mike Missanelli Show. "The conditions I'm pointing out to you don't change.

    "People should buckle in, this is gonna go a long time because my only job is to help give us the best chance to win the title.

    "Unless Ben Simmons is traded for a difference-maker, we're in the prime of Joel [Embiid]'s career. We have to get back either Ben Simmons playing well for us, who helps us win the championship, or we have to get back a difference-maker for Ben Simmons. Or this could be four years from now, and we're still like, 'Hey, we took the best shot at it we could'.

    "This could be four years. This is not day-to-day. Every day, we're going to expect Ben Simmons to be back here, or we're trading him for a difference-maker.

    "There's no other outcome that doesn't materially hurt our chance to win the championship in Joel Embiid's prime.

    "We would want him to play and be back starting tomorrow. But if he chooses to take some other path, that's his choice."

    The 76ers had the best record in the Eastern Conference regular season at 49-23 before losing to the Hawks in the Conference semifinals.

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    West Ham briefly appeared to have fallen behind early on as Theo Bongonda's diving header found the net, but the hosts were let off the hook as Junya Ito strayed offside in the build-up.

    Maarten Vandevoordt was alert to prevent Jhon Lucumi putting into his own goal from an Aaron Cresswell cross just before half-time, though the Hammers did get the breakthrough from the resulting corner.

    Dawson beat two markers in the air to meet Cresswell's delivery and Bryan Heynen could not prevent the header finding the top-left corner.

    Another Cresswell set-piece brought West Ham's second goal, Diop seeing his header go in off the crossbar in the 57th minute.

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    What does it mean? Hammers a cut above

    Genk certainly had their moments here, with Paul Onuachu threatening in the first half, Ito generally looking lively and that early disallowed goal, but West Ham were clinical and far more authoritative in the final third.

    It will take something remarkable from here to deny West Ham top spot in Group H, even if only one of their next three Europa League games is at home.

    They are making light work of a group that could have been problematic.

    Cresswell? More like cross well…

    West Ham left-back Cresswell was really bright here. His deliveries were a regular source of danger and two of them led to goals. Of course, praise should be reserved for Diop and Dawson for making the most of those crosses, but Cresswell put them into the right areas and you cannot ask for much more than that.

    Johnson fades into the background

    To say he played the full game, had the third-most touches (84) of anyone on the pitch, Ben Johnson did not offer a huge amount. He did not manage to play any key passes, and it was not as if he worked tirelessly off the ball either, as he was only involved in four duels in his whole outing.

    What's next?

    These two meet again on the next Europa League matchday, as West Ham travel to Belgium on November 4.

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