Sixers star Ben Simmons has cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols and is eligible to rejoin the team, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. However, he didn’t travel to Detroit for the team’s preseason finale on Friday, per Shelburne, who hears from sources that Simmons is “reconditioning” after missing training camp and the preseason.
A source close to the situation told Marc Stein of Substack on Friday that things are “trending toward” Simmons suiting up again for the Sixers — if not on opening night, then sometime after the regular season begins. A timeline for the 25-year-old’s return would hinge on his conditioning and his level of engagement, Stein writes.
Shelburne published an Insider-only story at ESPN today, taking a deep dive into the Simmons situation and reporting some new details on how it has played out this year. Here are a few of the highlights from that story:
- A memo from the NBA and NBPA earlier this fall stated that a player without a reasonable excuse “will not” be paid for games he misses. Previous memos from the league had used softer language (such as “would not”), which Simmons’ representatives believed left the door open to potentially recoup some lost salary. The tweak to that wording closed the door on that possibility and was likely a factor in Simmons’ decision to end his holdout, writes Shelburne.
- On the morning of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in June, a Sixers masseuse returned an inconclusive COVID-19 test, prompting the team to ask players – for contact-tracing purposes – who had seen her that morning. Only Simmons said that he had, and multiple sources tell Shelburne that some people within the team questioned whether Simmons had actually seen the masseuse or if he was trying to get out of playing the final game of a series in which he struggled badly.
- A source close to Simmons told Shelburne that he simply answered the question honestly, and he was ultimately cleared to play following a negative test. However, Shelburne’s report suggests the three-time All-Star was aware of the skepticism from some corners of the club, which may have affected him ahead of Game 7. “He was thrown,” a source tells ESPN.
- Echoing an earlier report from Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice, Shelburne says that when Simmons met the Sixers in August, he expressed a belief that he hadn’t been afforded the same sort of leeway other top draft picks get to grow and make mistakes in their first few seasons. Simmons wanted a fresh start in a place where he “could make mistakes,” Shelburne writes.