Good news, fans of the Philadelphia 76ers! Monday night, under cover of darkness, while the sports world was largely distracted by the fall of Jon Gruden, the heroics of Lamar Jackson, and tropical-force winds in Los Angeles, Ben Simmons returned to the city of Philadelphia for the first time since declaring over the summer that he would rather wander the wilderness for a lifetime than play another minute in a 76ers jersey.
This all unfolded rather quickly Monday, with strangely worded reports surfacing in the morning of a pending agreement between the 76ers and Rich Paul, CEO of Klutch Sports and Simmons's representative, to bring Simmons physically into the city of Philadelphia. The NBA's scoopbrained weirdos either made a conspicuous effort to avoid saying that Simmons would be returning to the 76ers' actual basketball operation, or simply were undone by their own bizarre writing habits. Either way, that part remains unclear:
Much like the first little piggy, Ben Simmons has now gone "to market." The 76ers reportedly learned that their negotiations had been successful when Simmons just showed up at the front door of the facility Monday night, hoping to gain entry but evidently having forgotten his key card. This is all super normal stuff, a general manager unexpectedly learning via text message that his disgruntled superstar point guard has flown across the country and is presently standing outside the arena in the dark, waiting for someone to come down and let him inside for a mandatory COVID-19 screening, but without any obvious indication that he intends to stick around and play basketball.
Apparently no one is real sure what happens next, except that Simmons "is expected to meet with the organization's leadership" sometime Tuesday, either to thaw relations or to tell them to their faces to go screw, or to sit quietly with a smug look on his face, content with the knowledge that he's satisfying the minimum requirements for collecting at least a portion of a paycheck. Here's a doozy of a sentence from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, describing the stakes for the 76ers, who've been working for months to arrange this exact meeting:
That will be telltale for the organization to begin to discover whether there's an opening to convince Simmons that a reconciliation is possible—or whether Simmons' return is simply what's needed to get the kind of trade that the Sixers want to stay contenders around All-NBA center Joel Embiid.
The best-case scenario for everyone involved is clearly a trade that sends Simmons to a team where he feels better suited to the talent around him, and which returns to the 76ers a player or package of players that fits a little bit better around Joel Embiid. But the funniest-case scenario has Simmons begrudgingly returning to practice, moping and sulking his way through the motions, getting booed to hell by the home crowd at every appearance, and further tanking Daryl Morey's trade leverage with each half-assed, apathetic performance. Since Morey and the 76ers seem to strongly prefer the risk of the latter to an expedient approximation of the former, we must all wish them the very best of luck with that.