It’s only Monday, yet the NBA rumor mill shan’t stop a-churning.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported this morning that the Boston Celtics have engaged in conversations with the Philadelphia 76ers regarding a trade for their disgruntled star, Ben Simmons. “Talks have been fluid with no traction as of yet,” Charania wrote. “Any potential Simmons deal with the Celtics would have to include All-Star forward Jaylen Brown, an ascending talent who is in the midst of another career season, averaging 25.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists.”
Despite these rumors, Charania says that the 76ers have not had any deal form for the 6-foot-11 All-Star. Simmons, last year’s runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year, is still valued in Philadelphia, never mind the fact that they refuse to pay him as he continues to hold out due to personal reasons. Most recently, he was fined his $360K game salary for missing last Thursday’s game against the Detroit Pistons, and the team plans to resume fining him until he cooperates with team physicians on his mental health issues and fulfills other basketball-related obligations.
Charania’s report goes into much more detail regarding Simmons’ pursuit of mental health assistance, particularly noting that the Sixers are “testing the validity” of said pursuit, and that the organization has become increasingly irritated with Simmons’ lack of clarity regarding the ongoing situation. Multiple sources, however, told Charania that “Simmons has provided the organization with the names of his mental health professionals... So far, Philadelphia does not have a mental health doctor on its staff with whom Simmons is comfortable, sources say. Simmons is allowed the ability to seek treatment from outside the 76ers’ physicians for mental assistance.”
But wait! There’s more!
Philadelphia’s president of basketball operations, Daryl Morey, reportedly approached Simmons last week regarding his status, and Simmons stood firm: he’s not ready to return, and is seeking professional help. Sixers’ officials have said that they support Simmons, but want feedback on exactly what that entails. Per Charania, “The National Basketball Players Association has supported Simmons throughout this process, and one NBPA source told The Athletic that as long as Simmons has provided his team with the basic information regarding mental health professionals with whom he’s seeking help, Philadelphia should not have grounds for salary withholding.”
This situation is a wild can of worms that, with every opening, becomes more and more complicated. But the idea that Jaylen Brown must be in the deal is reportedly a non-starter. Multiple league sources “were adamant,” per MassLive’s Brian Robb, that the Celtics have “no interest” in moving Brown in the interim, “particularly with him under team control for two more seasons at a below-market deal.”
How might a deal work, logistically, without Brown? As Robb writes, “Simmons is currently earning $31.5 million this season so so the Celtics would need to send out at least $26 million in any hypothetical trade with Philadelphia to satisfy NBA salary matching rules. Al Horford ($27 million) is a potential option for salary matching (packaged with more talent and first-round picks) but a Philadelphia reunion seems incredibly unlikely after his unsuccessful stint there two years ago. The same goes for Josh Richardson who was dealt two years ago by the Sixers to the Dallas Mavericks for Seth Curry.”
The trouble, though, lies in the fact that Morey has been aiming high all along in his search for what he believes is a fair offer for Simmons. That those offers tend to include three players, 42 draft picks, a key to the city, and the option to open and/or garner revenue from a new TGI Friday’s franchise is what has caused this cycle of silliness to now reach the point where Boston’s hat has been thrown in the ring. Without Brown, Morey is likely to hang up before Brad Stevens can offer up Marcus Smart and a few sweeteners.
“Ultimately,” Robb continues, “the only path that makes plausible sense for both sides in a deal where Simmons goes to Boston would be a third team getting involved. The Celtics send multiple players and first-round picks to Team X, Team X sends the Sixers player(s) that are appealing, and the Celtics land Simmons.” Given Morey’s high asking price, that seems unlikely.
All signs point toward this rumor withering away in time. But if a few months go by (and free agents signed this summer are eligible to be dealt) and no trade has been found, perhaps Morey will change his mind and pick up the phone. The Celtics, if he can find it in his heart to be realistic, will surely listen.