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Don’t Trade Ben Simmons, But Also What Would You Take For Him?

Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers calls out a play against the Atlanta Hawks during the first half of game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If you care to any measurable degree about exhibition basketball, you deserve to die alone and unloved. That said, Ben Simmons didn’t show up to play for his current team, the Philadelphia Moreys, in Monday night’s game against the Raptors, and the long national piefight between the two sides has moved out of the custard realm into more fruit-based comestibles. That means it’s getting messier, which frankly as a corporate proponent of chaos is completely swell by us.

But it isn’t that Simmons remains disinterested in working for Those Guys. That, you could have seen marching down Broadway on Labor Day. It’s this quote from Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix that ratchets up the fun:

Simmons is clearly willing to sacrifice some money—skipping the four preseason games alone will cost Simmons a cool $1.4 million, per ESPN—while Philadelphia is unwilling to be bullied into making a deal just to rid itself of the distraction. Rival executives, even those interested in prying Simmons away from the Sixers, agree. “F— that,” says an Eastern Conference team exec. “You let a guy force his way out with four years left on a max contract and you set a terrible precedent. They can’t cave.”

Parsing that with the usual cleaver-like dexterity, what we have here is the notion that “rival executives” who would like to trade for Simmons think the Sixers shouldn’t trade Simmons, which is a delightful ouroboros of illogic. Let’s talk, Daryl, but if you do, you’re a contemptible weakling and bad for business is quite a negotiations come-on.

Terrible precedents get set all the time, get ignored just as often, and the world spins on hurtling toward its justified collision with the sun. The notion that this can be solved with a few withheld paychecks is nonsense, despite Andrew Wiggins’s recent retreat into vaccinated safety. As Mannix points out, Simmons lost $360,000 by not turning up last night, but he has already made $57 million as a player and will not be eating mac and cheese out of the box, except as an act of political theatre. He can wait, at least as long as his itch to play in the NBA can be tamped down by his itch to play outside Pennsylvania.

But there is one more thing that helps fill this particular spittoon: What if those other “rival executives” decide, against their most acquisitive instincts, to hold firm as a group and not trade for Simmons en masse? Is that collusion? More importantly, is it collusion if they have the good sense not to leave any trails, paper or otherwise, to be found? How strong a stance do these execs take on a holdout with a presidential term’s worth of time left on a player’s contract? Are we ready for a world in which Ben Simmons becomes the hill that everyone agrees to fight on?

God, let’s hope so—on all of it. We’ve gone this far watching each side hold its breath until the other turns purple, the vaccination wars are subsiding, and soon the games will come to ruin the best part of every NBA season: the offseason, when fertile minds come to overheat. Long may Ben Simmons and Daryl Morey stick to their positions without let or hindrance, at least until the filling for the piefight switches from fruit to gravel.