Think about this: a perennial NBA All-Star sacrificing millions of dollars because of his jump shot. It sounds absurd, but it’s the case of Ben Simmons, who, two years removed from a 177 million contract extension with the Sixers, is refusing to play for them. This all comes after his obstructive second-round performance in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, headlined by his reluctance to shoot free throws, which he had struggled to do well in the series (33%). The series would go seven games, ending in cataclysmic defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks; in one of the final possessions, Simmons passed up a wide-open layup to tie the game — epitomizing his series as a whole.
Now, I don’t know if Simmons read the Instagram comments trolling his play, but certainly, some of the media heat found its way to his feed. It didn’t help that after the series, when asked if the Sixers could win a championship with Simmons, head coach Doc Rivers said, “I don’t know that question…or the answer to it right now.” With the array of strikes from trolls, analysts, and even his teammates (in a recent interview, Joel Embiid said he “doesn’t care about [Simmons],” that “He does whatever he wants”) it was no surprise that Simmons made clear he wanted out or, at a minimum, would refuse to play. And refusing to play, he has. Since rejoining the Sixers, Simmons has missed every game, and although he targeted mental health as his reason for absence, he avoided help from Sixers medical staff, leading to fines. Whether he ends up playing for the Sixers or not, I’m sure a little brotherly love may help Simmons test the hardwood this season.
It’s not just Ben Simmons, whose absence from the NBA has been dramatized; another high-profile guard— Kyrie Irving— has been missing for his own reasons. On the court, Irving makes fans question what they’ve seen through his highlights, yet off the court, he has a similar effect through his actions. His latest absurdity is his decision to stay unvaccinated despite New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, and as a result, he has been ineligible to rejoin the Nets. Even without Irving, the Nets boast a solid record with Kevin Durant and James Harden playing big minutes. However, this was the same duo that, after losing Irving in the playoffs, lost in the second round.
With trade talks now surrounding both Simmons and Irving, it just so happens that one suggestion is a swap between the two. As the season continues to progress, tension will only continue to grow for these division rivals.