The speculation around Ben Simmons and what his situation means for the rest of the Philadelphia 76ers has been unhelpful, coach Doc Rivers acknowledges.

The NBA trade deadline passes on Thursday – in theory meaning an end to Simmons gossip at least until the end of the season.

Led by MVP candidate Joel Embiid, the 76ers are an impressive fifth in the Eastern Conference despite being without second man Simmons for the whole year so far.

The former number one overall pick has been the subject of trade talk for over a year and has actively pushed for a trade since before this season started.

The 76ers have not yet managed to find a deal that suits them, although the looming deadline may focus minds.

Potential trade options are seemingly decreasing, however, with the Sacramento Kings pulling out of talks and the Washington Wizards' Bradley Beal out for the year.

That might mean Simmons staying in Philly, but Rivers is just keen to get to the end of the week regardless.

"Absolutely," Rivers said of anticipating the deadline. "Especially this year, just because of the situation we're in.

"I know our guys are NBA players and all that, but they're human.

"I can't imagine the amount of names that have been thrown in. So every single guy goes to bed tonight thinking this may be his last night or whatever, so that's tough. It really is."

Should Simmons go elsewhere or stay on the sideline, the Sixers will require reinforcements at point guard. Rivers said the team "have to" add depth behind Tyrese Maxey, a breakout star in Simmons' absence.

But there is also the possibility Simmons himself could be the man to bolster Rivers' roster, making an improbable return to action.

Team-mate Embiid said after Tuesday's defeat to the Phoenix Suns: "Like I've been saying since the season started, I'm happy.

"Whoever wants to play is welcome. If someone wants to play, they're welcome. But we've got guys here that want to be here, that show up every single night."

The center was speaking in response to a question on Simmons, who he criticised following last year's playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

In a lengthy answer, Embiid added: "If you want to be part of us, I am sure everybody is going to be fine with it, but you've got to show up. You've got to want to be there. And I'm sure everybody is going to accept whoever that is."

The Ben Simmons saga has stretched on for more than a year but might finally be reaching its conclusion.

Simmons was the subject of trade rumours last January when the Philadelphia 76ers pursued James Harden from the Houston Rockets.

Harden instead headed for the Brooklyn Nets, and Simmons saw out the season in Philly, only for speculation to ramp up again after a deeply dissatisfying playoff exit.

Joel Embiid and Doc Rivers appeared to blame the former first overall pick for a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in which his reluctance to take shots in big moments came to the fore. That was in June. Simmons has not played since.

Both the player and the team have pushed for a move this season without success, but Thursday's looming trade should focus minds. The 76ers, led by MVP frontrunner Embiid, remain in title contention despite having a three-time All-Star on the sideline, yet a deal this week could significantly improve their chances.

Stats Perform looks at four potential landing spots for Simmons that might also suit his current employers...

Brooklyn Nets

Contrasting reports this week have considered the possibility of a belated Simmons-Harden trade, with the Australian sent to Brooklyn rather than Houston. The Nets move has not quite worked for Harden, who has struggled for form and fitness on a team too often missing one or more of their 'Big Three'.

The Sixers' former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey would appear to remain interested in reuniting with Harden in Philly, although whether the Nets are quite so keen on Simmons remains up for debate. Publicly, they say otherwise.

The possibility of Seth Curry also moving to Brooklyn has been raised in some reports, presumably to replace the shooting Harden offers but Simmons does not. Curry is a regular for the Sixers, but Harden would represent a clear upgrade – although he has a player option at the end of this season – while Simmons' elite defensive play would not be missed given he is not playing at all right now.

Washington Wizards

Harden appeals given Morey's desire to get an elite player back in return for Simmons. For the same reason, Bradley Beal – beaten to the scoring title by Stephen Curry last year – is an attractive option.

Beal has been less impressive this year, particularly of late, and is now out with a sprained wrist. However, a move to a contender may well motivate a player who has spent his entire career to date with the Wizards, featuring in a grand total of 11 playoff games in the past five years.

The Wizards, like the Nets, might want a second player or at least a second asset to join Simmons in the trade – moving on from Beal would surely mean a complete rebuild – so the 76ers' response as time starts to run out will be intriguing. Again, Beal has a player option for next year.

Portland Trail Blazers

For a long time, it seemed Damian Lillard was the superstar the 76ers really wanted if they were to deal Simmons. At various stages, that possibility has appeared more or less likely.

When the speculation was at its most intense back at the start of the season, Simmons was unwanted in Philly while Lillard was one of the best players in the NBA. Now, Portland are struggling horribly, Lillard has not played since December and Simmons might seem quite an attractive option for the Blazers, who look to be using the final days before the deadline to drastically alter their roster.

It would still seem unlikely Lillard would depart, rather than remaining as the centrepiece of the team for next season and beyond, and the Blazers do not quite have another asset capable of turning the 76ers into title favourites. CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic may both leave, but Morey would surely want more for Simmons.

Sacramento Kings

The Kings would have to perform a significant U-turn for Simmons to end up in Sacramento, having decided late last month they were not interested in paying the sort of price Morey was looking for. The 76ers presumably would have wanted multiple players back, with the Kings lacking a Harden, Beal or Lillard.

Of course, Simmons has not played since those talks broke down, so there is little reason to believe the Kings would suddenly consider him worth the asking price, but as one of the NBA's most forgettable teams – out of the playoffs since 2006 – they surely have to take a risk at some stage.

Whether that risk is giving up multiple useful players for an out-of-favour superstar who does not score is another matter, yet the Kings really need to be active before Thursday, so it is not beyond the realms of possibility they could re-enter the Simmons conversation.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been on the floor of the NBA for what feels like forever.

It has been 17 seasons since the Wolves last won a playoff series, tied with the Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats and Sacramento Kings for the longest active streaks in the league.

Since the 2005-06 season, Minnesota have had just one winning season, tied with the Kings for the fewest in the NBA over that span. All of this losing comes despite having talented players and valuable assets on the roster over the past 15 seasons, chiefly Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Al Jefferson.

Time and again, Minnesota have underperformed their talent and remained irrelevant, even by small-market standards.

Yet this season has provided a glimmer of hope for the future – and perhaps the present – if the Timberwolves' front office can choose the correct path.

Minnesota turned the calendar from November to December with an 11-10 record after last year's team needed 45 games to get their 11th win of the season.

This month, however, the Wolves have lost four straight, and other than an 8-3 stretch from November 12 to November 30, the team are just 3-11, leaving many to question whether Minnesota are genuinely improved or simply had a nice three-week stretch.

The performance on the defensive end of the floor has much better than last season's by almost any measure. Opponents are scoring an average of 8.9 points per game fewer against the Wolves this season compared to last season's Western Conference-worst mark of 117.7.

 

Even adjusting for pace, the numbers seem to show improvement defensively. Minnesota are allowing 105.6 points per 100 possessions, far better than last season's mark of 112.1.

The Timberwolves' improvements in opponents' shooting have been nearly as pronounced, allowing 44.5 per cent conversion from the floor and 33.3 per cent from three-point range, both representing the largest improvements in the West.

Additionally, Minnesota are forcing a league-leading 17.3 turnovers per game, although that aggression has led to a league-high 22.7 personal fouls per game and NBA-most 24.3 opponents' free throw attempts per game.

The T-Wolves have converted defense into offense, boasting a top-10 transition offense and playing at the third-fastest pace in the NBA, getting up an average of 92.4 shot attempts per game. The halfcourt efficiency, however, has been middling at best.

Despite improved numbers from Towns and second-year sensation Anthony Edwards, Minnesota have seen their shooting drop both overall and from three-point range.

Launching 42.3 three-point attempts per game – second only to the Utah Jazz (42.7) in the league this season – the Wolves rank just 23rd in three-point percentage at 33.6, making them extremely volatile on offense.

The saving grace on offense has been offensive rebounding, with the T-Wolves grabbing a league-leading 13.4 offensive boards per game and converting those into 16.8 second-chance points per game, trailing only the Memphis Grizzlies' 16.9.

Ultimately, the limiting factor to Minnesota's playoff hopes may be a lack of depth in offensive talent. Towns, Edwards and point guard D'Angelo Russell are the highest-scoring trio in the West at 65.0 points per game, but the team as a whole have the 24th-most efficient offense in the league, scoring 104.2 points per 100 possessions.

These polarising results leave the Timberwolves' front office in a bind as it prepares for the future and as the league's trade deadline comes into view.

The team are currently on pace to qualify for the West's play-in tournament while Towns is still just 26 and Edwards is a green 20 years old. It would be perfectly reasonable to play this season out, acquire more young talent in the draft and build towards the future.

But disgruntled Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons has been linked to Minnesota in trade talks by a variety of media outlets, indicating that the Wolves' front office could have designs on evading the play-in tournament entirely and making a run at a top-six seed.

The Sixers have remained adamant that they will accept nothing less than a king's ransom for the 25-year-old point guard, but analysts have drawn up plenty of potential three- and four-team deals that would land Simmons in Minneapolis as a bet on top-flight prospect talent.

Many teams would avoid such a risk, especially after Simmons' turbulent offseason and oft-criticised postseason performances, but Minnesota – with their small market and cold climate – have a famously difficult time improving their roster through free agency. Towns, Anthony and Simmons were each the top overall draft pick in their respective classes and uniting them would be an aggressive bet on talent and potential.

Simmons, an infamously non-willing shooter from anywhere outside the paint, would likely represent a double-down approach on the Wolves' unconventional style of play, banking on more defense, turnovers and offensive rebounds while ignoring the need for an elite shot-creator.

The current core of the Timberwolves, however, has provided some reason for optimism, and the opportunity for a rare playoff run may be too much to resist for Minnesota's front office, long deprived of postseason revenue.

The Wolves' schedule is brutal over the next 12 games – seven of which are on the road against West opponents – and their performance over that stretch could determine the path of the team going forward.

Perhaps leaders in Minneapolis will see an 8-3 run in November as a promising blip on the radar for a rebuilding squad, but a win-starved franchise in a small market could be compelled to invest heavily in the present, banking on three number one picks.

The Philadelphia 76ers have been accused of worsening Ben Simmons' mental-health situation by agent Rich Paul, who criticised the NBA franchise for fining and suspending the wantaway All-Star.

Simmons is yet to feature for the 76ers this NBA season, notifying Philadelphia he is not mentally ready to play, having sought a trade following the team's shock playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks in 2020-21.

He was suspended by the 76ers for the season opener due to "conduct detrimental to the team", while the Australian guard was reportedly fined for failing to co-operate with team physicians on his mental-health issues.

As Simmons' future continues to dominate headlines amid reported interest from the likes of the Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors, Paul provided an update.

"I truly believe the fines, the targeting, the negative publicity shined on the issue — that's very unnecessary and has furthered the mental health issues for Ben," Paul told The Athletic.

"Either you help Ben, or come out and say he's lying. Which one is it?"

"I don't think the 76ers are a bad organisation. Josh Harris and David Blitzer are great governors, they've done a great job with the organisation. I have respect for Daryl Morey," Paul said. "Ben has a mental issue, let's support him. I'm happy he got to a place where he realised and accepted help. I understand it's a business, but even in business, you need humanity.

"I have a great level of respect and love for the city of Philadelphia, as someone who loves the game, but this isn't about that. This is about Ben getting back to a place mentally where he can be back on the floor — and only Ben can tell us when that is. We have to allow him to do that."

 

Simmons – an elite defender who signed a five-year, $177.2million contract extension in 2019 – and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers, who were eliminated in the semi-finals.

The 25-year-old had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs against the Hawks last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

"In this case, we have to get Ben help and not put finances above mental health," Paul said. "As an agent, I understand contractual obligations and I hold myself accountable in this business. But if someone is telling you something, we can no longer turn a blind eye in today's world.

"This is no longer about a trade. This is about finding a place where we can help Ben get back to his mental strength and get back on the floor. I want him on the floor playing the game that he loves.

"I want Ben on the floor whether that's in a 76ers uniform or any other uniform, that's not up to me, but I want him in a state where he can resume play. We want to cooperate and want to work him back on the floor."

On when Simmons could return to playing, Paul added: "He's not there yet. How can a doctor, who has only met with Ben once, say, 'Ben is mentally ready to play?' So do we keep digging on him, or help him?

"Now that we understand that reluctance from Ben, it all makes sense. There was a shying away from it. If Ben has repeatedly showed behaviour that entails he isn't mentally ready to play, embrace him. Support him. We have to remove our ego from it. We all have to take responsibility."

The Philadelphia 76ers will not have fond memories of playing the Atlanta Hawks as the two teams head into their first matchup of 2021-22 with 3-2 records.

The 76ers' playoff run last year ended against Atlanta in a Game 7 defeat at Wells Fargo Center.

That was a hugely damaging series for Philly, not only bringing their season to a close but also increasing the attention on Ben Simmons' below-par displays.

Simmons averaged just 9.9 points against the Hawks and did not attempt a single fourth-quarter field goal from Game 4 onwards. He has since pushed for a move, but the Sixers cannot find a trade partner.

The 76ers are without Simmons so far this year but will hope Atlanta's return to Philadelphia can provide the motivation required to truly kickstart their season.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Philadelphia 76ers – Tyrese Maxey

Without Simmons, second-year point guard Maxey has come into the lineup. The 76ers have played the same starting five in each game so far this season, with Maxey for Simmons the only change from last year's most-used lineup.

Maxey is not exactly a like-for-like replacement for Simmons, though. For all his faults, the wantaway three-time All-Star is an elite defensive player – averaging 1.6 steals, 0.6 blocks and 5.6 defensive rebounds last year – and a far more comfortable facilitator than Maxey, who has 2.1 assists per game for his career.

But the Sixers' 2020 first-round pick is still just 20 and acknowledges he is learning on the job.

"It's a work in progress," he said after 16 points, six assists, six rebounds and four turnovers against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday. "It's the fifth game, stuff is slowing down, you figure out which guys want the ball, try to find switches or advantages that work for us.

"It's getting a lot better. The coaching staff and my team-mates have been great. They've been helping me."

And perhaps against Atlanta, a team who have benefited from Simmons' reluctance to shoot from deep, Maxey's superior shot could prove useful. He is 45.9 per cent from the midrange and 30.0 per cent from three for his career versus Simmons' 37.6 per cent and 14.7 per cent.

 

Atlanta Hawks – Trae Young

Two years older than Maxey, the Hawks' point guard Young is far more established both at the position and in the league. He averaged 29.0 points and 10.9 assists against the 76ers in the playoffs.

That postseason run seemingly saw Young move to another level as one of the NBA's leading young players, but this season has not so far gone entirely to plan.

His 24.2 points per game ranked 17th in the league through Thursday's games, having last year finished 14th in that regard (25.3 ppg), yet the former fifth overall pick feels those numbers should have been boosted by more generous officiating.

Young became the latest player to complain about the NBA's "interpretive change in the officiating of overt, abrupt or abnormal non-basketball moves by offensive players with the ball in an effort to draw fouls" after a loss to the Washington Wizards.

He is shooting a career-best 95.5 per cent from the foul line but has attempted only 4.4 field goals per game. Having averaged 9.9 attempts per game against Philly, Saturday's opponents know how crucial it is those marginal calls continue to go against him.

KEY BATTLE – Can Collins continue to impress against Embiid?

The battle of the big men should be worth watching on Saturday, with John Collins surely meeting his match in the form of 76ers superstar Joel Embiid, one of the league's best two-way centers.

The Hawks have relied on dominating during Collins' minutes so far this season, with his plus/minus a team-leading 8.4 and his net rating an impressive 29.3.

The six-foot-nine center also has 12 dunks, but Embiid is ticking along at 1.8 blocks per game and there could be fireworks if Collins attempts to take on his direct opponent.

HEAD TO HEAD

Atlanta might have won the game that mattered most, but they and the 76ers split the series 5-5 across the regular season and postseason last year.

The Sixers have the edge in the all-time regular season record, leading 196-191, although the Hawks closed that gap considerably during 'The Process' era, having an 18-9 advantage since the start of the 2013-14 campaign.

Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said the Ben Simmons situation seems to be "moving very much in a positive direction" amid the All-Star's absence.

Simmons is yet to feature for the 76ers this NBA season, sitting out games against the New Orleans Pelicans, Brooklyn Nets and Oklahoma City Thunder, having sought a trade following the team's shock playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks in 2020-21.

After being suspended for the season opener due to "conduct detrimental to the team", Simmons met with head coach Doc Rivers, star Joel Embiid and the team last week, notifying Philadelphia he was not mentally ready to play and needed time to step away.

Morey provided an update on Simmons, who has reportedly attracted interest from the likes of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers.

"Ben came in at the end of last week and said he had back stiffness, and he's dealing with some personal reasons off the court," Morey told NBC Sports.

"Both [the Sixers] take very seriously. We're working with Ben to provide every resource to help him with what is needed. And he spoke to his team-mates; things seem to be moving very much in a positive direction.

"We're gonna provide all the resources and get Ben what he needs and get him out there as soon as we can. We're taking it day by day, getting Ben what he needs.

"He'll probably be doing individual workouts while he works through this and working through everything that we can help him with and hope to get him back out there as soon as he's ready."

 

Simmons – an elite defender who signed a five-year, $177.2million contract extension in 2019 – and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers, who were eliminated in the semi-finals.

The 25-year-old had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs against the Hawks last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid made an impassioned plea for fans to support team-mate Ben Simmons amid his continued absence.

Simmons is yet to feature for the 76ers this NBA season, sitting out Friday's clash with Eastern Conference rivals the Brooklyn Nets, having been suspended for Wednesday's opener against the New Orleans Pelicans due to "conduct detrimental to the team".

The three-time All-Star has sought a trade away from the 76ers following last season's shock playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks, while he was reportedly ejected from Tuesday's practice as head coach Doc Rivers grew frustrated with his lack of engagement.

After a meeting between Simmons, Embiid and the rest of the team, last season's MVP runner-up threw his support behind the former number one pick prior to tip-off against the Nets in Philadelphia.

"I urge you guys to continue to support us and our team-mate Ben, because he's still our brother," Embiid said as he grabbed the microphone on court.

Following the meeting, ESPN reported Simmons notified the 76ers he was not mentally ready to play and needed time to step away.

"I felt good up and down throughout and I kept saying that, things do change," Rivers told reporters pre-game.

"That still doesn't mean it's gonna work out perfect or it could, but I always believed that. I've never wavered from that. I've said that 100 times and I still stick with it."

Rivers added: "It was a productive day, but it's a start. That's the only way you can get going, you gotta start, and today was a start."

 

Simmons – an elite defender who signed a five-year, $177.2million contract extension in 2019 – and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers, who were eliminated in the semi-finals.

The 25-year-old had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs against the Hawks last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

"He is part of the team," he continued. "We have certain rules, obviously, the other day, that didn't happen, but today was a good day.

"Most people, we look at problems instead of the possibilities and I think if we focus on the possibilities, just in life in general, you have a pretty good chance of going to a good place. If you focus on the problems, you're probably gonna continue to have problems."

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said while disgruntled All-Star Ben Simmons remains away from the team, he took positives from Friday's meeting.

Simmons – who has demanded a trade – was suspended for Wednesday's NBA season-opening win over the New Orleans Pelicans due to "conduct detrimental to the team" following reports he was ejected from practice after Rivers grew frustrated with his lack of engagement.

The Australian has also been ruled out of Friday's showdown with star-studded Eastern Conference rivals the Brooklyn Nets at Wells Fargo Center.

Reports of a meeting between Simmons, Rivers and his team-mates emerged on Friday, with ESPN claiming the former number one pick was not mentally ready to play and needed time to step away.

Speaking afterwards and prior to tip-off against the Nets, Rivers told reporters: "I felt good up and down throughout and I kept saying that, things do change.

"That still doesn't mean it's gonna work out perfect or it could, but I always believed that. I've never wavered from that. I've said that 100 times and I still stick with it."

Rivers added: "It was a productive day, but it's a start. That's the only way you can get going, you gotta start, and today was a start."

Simmons – an elite defender who signed a five-year, $177.2million contract extension in 2019 – and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers, who were eliminated in the semi-finals.

The 25-year-old had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs against the Hawks last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

 

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

"He is part of the team," he continued. "We have certain rules, obviously, the other day, that didn't happen, but today was a good day.

"Most people, we look at problems instead of the possibilities and I think if we focus on the possibilities, just in life in general, you have a pretty good chance of going to a good place. If you focus on the problems, you're probably gonna continue to have problems."

Including the playoffs, Philadelphia are 9-2 in their last 11 games against the Nets. Additionally, the 76ers have six straight home wins in the series, starting with Game 2 of the first round of the 2019 postseason.

Four Philadelphia players scored 20-plus points against New Orleans, with Joel Embiid and Furkan Korkmaz each having 22 and Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey finishing with 20. The 76ers had zero games last season with four 20-plus point scorers, according to Stats Perform.

Philadelphia 76ers general manager Daryl Morey says the Ben Simmons saga could be drawn out for four years as he remains unflinching in the standoff.

Simmons was suspended by the Sixers for conduct detrimental to the team before failing to appear at an individual workout on Thursday, following the side's season-opening 117-97 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Three-time NBA All-Star Simmons has demanded a trade amid criticism following last season's shock playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks. He was absent from Philadelphia for the first two weeks of preseason work before showing up on October 11 to begin fulfilling COVID-19 protocols that would allow him to re-join the championship-chasing franchise.

The situation has not improved internally with team-mate Joel Embiid admitting he would not "baby-sit" Simmons, while head coach Doc Rivers said the predicament was not fun.

Morey added on Thursday that the Sixers would not trade Simmons as they were not satisfied what they could get in return would help them win an NBA title with their window open now. As a result, Morey said the icy situation could drag on.

"You're going to think I'm kidding, I'm not, this could be four years," Morey told the Mike Missanelli Show. "The conditions I'm pointing out to you don't change.

"People should buckle in, this is gonna go a long time because my only job is to help give us the best chance to win the title.

"Unless Ben Simmons is traded for a difference-maker, we're in the prime of Joel [Embiid]'s career. We have to get back either Ben Simmons playing well for us, who helps us win the championship, or we have to get back a difference-maker for Ben Simmons. Or this could be four years from now, and we're still like, 'Hey, we took the best shot at it we could'.

"This could be four years. This is not day-to-day. Every day, we're going to expect Ben Simmons to be back here, or we're trading him for a difference-maker.

"There's no other outcome that doesn't materially hurt our chance to win the championship in Joel Embiid's prime.

"We would want him to play and be back starting tomorrow. But if he chooses to take some other path, that's his choice."

The 76ers had the best record in the Eastern Conference regular season at 49-23 before losing to the Hawks in the Conference semifinals.

Joel Embiid praised the Philadelphia 76ers' team spirit following their 117-97 win over the New Orleans Pelicans despite the absence of wantaway star Ben Simmons.

Simmons was ejected from practice prior to the game due to issues with his conduct as the 25-year-old guard seeks a trade, but the 76ers did not miss him en route to a comfortable victory.

Embiid, who had 22 points and 12 rebounds, noted the healthy atmosphere in the rest of the squad following a team dinner ahead of the opening fixture.

“We've been practicing hard,” Embiid said. “It was good to kind of get off to a good start, get a win and kind of forget about the off-the-court stuff.

"[The spirit on the bench] - that’s us. That’s how we’ve been this whole summer. That’s the attitude everybody has had. That’s the definition of us. Being together, having fun together, doing stuff with each other. I think it goes a long way.

"It's good to just go out and kinda not talk about basketball and talk about life. That's also an evolution for me, because usually, when I used to go on the road, I'd just like to stay in my room and be on the phone and play video games."

Simmons' replacement in the team, Tyrese Maxey, managed 20 points, with seven rebounds and five assists and agreed with his team-mate, explaining that the squad's chemistry is a crucial factor in their success.

“Everybody's capable,” Maxey said. "At the end of the day, basketball's a team effort. You need an entire team to be able to win. I felt like the focus was there from shoot-around, probably even from when we got on the plane yesterday.

“The chemistry is really [good]. Guys like playing with each other, guys like being around each other. Sometimes adversity makes you stronger, makes the bond closer and we got to just keep building.”

Head coach Doc Rivers insisted that Simmons' antics have not disrupted the rest of his players, and praised their collective development as a team.

"[The players] have been normal, the only abnormal part is when they have to talk to the media afterwards and they're asked questions [about Simmons]," Rivers said.

"It's about playing basketball and growing together, and they've done a great job of that."

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said the Ben Simmons drama is muting the fun of opening day for the NBA title contenders.

Simmons will not feature in Wednesday's opener against the New Orleans Pelicans – the three-time All-Star suspended by the 76ers due to "conduct detrimental to the team" following reports he was ejected from practice after Rivers grew frustrated with his lack of engagement.

76ers guard Simmons has demanded a trade amid criticism following last season's shock playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks and was absent from Philadelphia for the first two weeks of preseason work before showing up on October 11 to begin fulfilling COVID-19 protocols that would allow him to re-join the championship-chasing franchise.

Speculation over Simmons' future is now set to intensify amid reported interest from the likes of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers.

Ahead of the 76ers' clash with the Pelicans, Rivers told reporters: "It's a predicament that we're in and that part is no fun. It really isn't.

"We get to play right now and Ben is not. I want Ben to be playing. That's his job."

Simmons – an elite defender who signed a five-year, $177.2million contract extension in 2019 – and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers, who were eliminated in the semi-finals.

 

The 25-year-old had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs against the Hawks last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

"Obviously you don't want any of those things. You get a lot of texts, 'great job' and all this stuff and it's not," Rivers said. "I don't think people understand ... you want all your players to do well.

"You cheer for your players. Even when they're in a tough spot, you want it to go well for them, you do. When you're put in positions like [Tuesday], it's no fun."

Philadelphia – who finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season – have won five of their last six games against New Orleans, though the Pelicans claimed their last home meeting. Of those six games, five were decided by seven or fewer points.

Seth Curry shot 45.0 per cent from beyond the arc for the 76ers last season – his third consecutive campaign shooting at least 45.0 percent from three-point range, all with different teams. He is the fourth qualified player in NBA history with three straight seasons of 45.0-percent shooting from downtown, according to Stats Perform.

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid hit out at Ben Simmons, insisting he is "not here to babysit" after his wantaway team-mate was banned by the NBA championship-chasing franchise.

The 76ers suspended disgruntled All-Star Simmons – who has demanded a trade out of Philadelphia – for their season-opening clash with the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.

It came after 76ers head coach Doc Rivers tossed Simmons from Tuesday's practice session.

Simmons sought a trade amid criticism following last season's shock playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks and was absent from Philadelphia for the first two weeks of preseason work before showing up on October 11 to begin fulfilling COVID-19 protocols that would allow him to re-join the championship-chasing franchise.

Speculation over Simmons' future is now set to intensify amid reported interest from the likes of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers.

Embiid, however, is not interested in Simmons – who signed a five-year, $177.2million contract extension in 2019 – as the 2020-21 MVP runner-up took aim at the former number one draft pick.

"I don't care about that man honestly," Embiid told reporters. "He does whatever he wants. That's not my job. That's those guys' jobs. I'm only focused on trying to make the team better. Win some games. Play hard every night.

"I try to lead all the guys that we have here and I'm sure that I feel the same way because our chemistry has been excellent. Despite everything that's been happening in the last few months. So like I said, I don't I don't really care.

 

"But at the end of the day, our job is not to babysit somebody. We're here and we get paid to produce on the court. Go out, play hard, and win some games. That's all we get paid for. We don't get paid to come out here and try to babysit somebody. That's not our job and I'm sure my team-mates feel that way.

"Like I said, I'm not here to babysit. I'd be willing to babysit if someone wants to listen, but that's not my job. That's out of my control. I'll focus on what's here and try to win some games."

Simmons – an elite defender – and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers, who were eliminated in the semi-finals.

The 25-year-old had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs against the Hawks last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

"I just thought he was a distraction today," Rivers said. "I didn't think he wanted to do what everybody else was doing and it was early, it wasn't a big deal. Just told him you should leave man and we went on with practice.

"I'm going to give like every day, every single moment, I'm going to give Ben a chance to join the team and be part of the team. He's under contract to be part of the team and so that's not going to change.

"Sometimes it happens quick and guys join back in, sometimes it doesn't. I've been in both situations and I'm fine with that. But at the end of the day, as a coach, I have to protect the team. The team first and then we get to the other part and so today, I just thought it was more important to focus on the team."

Ben Simmons will miss the Philadelphia 76ers' NBA season opener against the New Orleans Pelicans after being handed a one-game suspension.

Simmons demanded a trade amid the fallout from last season's playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks. He was absent for the first two weeks of preseason work before showing up on October 11 to begin fulfilling COVID-19 protocols that would allow him to re-join the championship-chasing franchise.

Coach Doc Rivers told reporters on Monday he had "no idea" whether Simmons would play in the opening game of the 2021-22 season on Wednesday night, adding: "When it comes, I'll make the decision. But I'm just going to wait and see and watch. The spirit has been so good, and so we're just going to keep going."

On Tuesday, the 76ers announced Simmons was suspended for the Pelicans game due to "conduct detrimental to the team". According to reports, the three-time All Star was ejected from practice after Rivers grew frustrated with his lack of engagement.

The Australian, who has four years and $147million left on his max contract, was criticised for his shooting performance during the 2021 postseason, in which the 76ers were eliminated in the semi-finals.

The former number one draft pick had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his final four games of the playoffs against the Hawks. He is the only NBA player in the past 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as he posted a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason.

Free throws became a theme of his problematic playoffs. Simmons made just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 postseason. his 34.2 free-throw percentage the lowest ever such figure for players with a minimum of 70 attempts.

 

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers remains unsure if Ben Simmons will feature in the team's NBA season opener against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.

Simmons demanded a trade amid criticism following last season's playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks and was absent from Philadelphia for the first two weeks of preseason work before showing up on October 11 to begin fulfilling COVID-19 protocols that would allow him to re-join the championship-chasing franchise.

As the 76ers – who claimed the Eastern Conference top seed in 2020-21 – gear up for the new season, Rivers was again asked about Simmons' availability.

"I have no idea," Rivers told reporters after Simmons participated in practice on Monday. "Honestly, I haven't even thought about it much.

"When it comes, I'll make the decision. But I'm just going to wait and see and watch. The spirit has been so good, and so we’re just going to keep going."

"Just learning the new stuff, conditioning, timing, rhythm," Rivers said.

"We've been together for three weeks, so we've established a good rhythm. So the more he's been in, the more he does, especially when we're working on our offensive stuff earlier, because we've built from last year but we tweaked a lot of stuff. But it's easy to pick up, especially for him."

 

Simmons – an elite defender – and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers, who were eliminated in the semi-finals.

Former number one draft pick Simmons had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs against the Hawks last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

On chemistry, Rivers added: "It'll grow. It'll come back. I'm not that concerned, right now, with it. They are interchanging, it's coming, and it just takes time.

"Chemistry is huge, and I think overall our chemistry is phenomenal right now and we want to keep it going."

Disgruntled Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons returned to practice for the first time since ending his holdout, but it remains unclear when he might make his NBA season debut. 

Simmons demanded a trade following last season and remained absent from Philadelphia for the first two weeks of preseason work before showing up on October 11 to begin fulfilling COVID-19 protocols that would allow him to re-join the championship-chasing franchise.

The 76ers open their 2021-22 campaign at the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday but head coach Doc Rivers said he does not know whether All-Star Simmons will be available. 

"I'm going to wait and see," Rivers told reporters. "Conditioning I would say, just watching him, I thought he was in decent shape. Still not, obviously, game shape."

The 76ers will play their home opener against Eastern Conference rivals the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, and the Australian guard – scrutinised after the team's shock Eastern Conference semi-final loss to the Atlanta Hawks – figures to get an unfriendly welcome from the Philadelphia crowd whether he plays or not. 

Perhaps with that dynamic in mind, Rivers was asked whether he had thought about whether to give Simmons his season debut at home or on the road, but he demurred. 

"No – right now I'm just trying to get him back comfortable and integrated. I'm not even thinking about that," Rivers said. "That'll come at some point but there's no game plan there, I can tell you that. When he's ready, he'll play."

Simmons did not speak to reporters Sunday but team officials indicated he would later this week. 

The number one overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft has averaged 15.9 points, 8.1. rebounds and 7.7 assists in four seasons with Philadelphia and has been named to the All-Star Game the last three years. 

But the 25-year-old's struggles in the playoffs and a contract that will pay him $33million this season with three years and $114m remaining on his deal after that have made it difficult for the 76ers to find a trade partner. 

Getting Simmons back on the court could help in that endeavour, though it appears he may have to work to do to smooth things over with his team-mates. 

While guard Furkan Korkmaz told reporters he had missed Simmons and "personally I'm happy to see him back here on the court," forward Tobias Harris declined to get into specifics about an awkward reunion but added that it would not matter once games begin.

"The vibe was what it was," Harris said. "Was it perfect? No. But we're here to do a job, and that's to win basketball games. We put on our big boy pants and get on the floor and do what we do."

Simmons – an elite defender – and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers.

Former number one draft pick Simmons had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

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