Discussions have picked up speed as All-Star Ben Simmons returns to the Philadelphia 76ers, probably as soon as this week, sources told ESPN on Monday.
Philadelphia management and coach Doc Rivers stepped forward in talks over the weekend with Simmons’ agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, about a decision that Simmons should report to the team, sources said.
Simmons was soon able to speak to team officials, something he has not done directly since a meeting in late August in Los Angeles when he reiterated his desire to be traded, sources told ESPN.
He has become more open to the possibility of ending his time away from the team and reporting to Philadelphia, sources say.
The Sixers have covered the league through the offseason of trades, but have not been able to find a deal that would bring them back to the kind of comparable star they would like to continue building a championship candidate around All-NBA center Joel Embiid, said sources.
These trade talks are likely to continue with Simmons’ return, but Sixers president Daryl Morey and Rivers hope to continue the work of convincing Simmons to stay long-term with the franchise, sources said.
Simmons will have lost $ 1 million in salary when he misses Monday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.
He has four years and $ 147 million left of his max contract, including $ 33 million for 2021-22.
Simmons asked for a trade in the immediate aftermath of Philadelphia’s Game 7 loss at home to the Atlanta Hawks — where Simmons infamously walked out of an open can with less than four minutes to go that would have equalized the score. The Sixers ended up never tying the score again.
After that game, both Rivers and Embiid gave answers that got media attention – Rivers for saying “I do not know” when asked if Simmons could be a championship point guard, and Embiid for saying it whiffed dunk was the turning point of the game.
Rivers has said his comments after the match were taken out of context, while Embiid said he does not regret what he said because in his mind he simply presented what happened. However, Embiid has said he has regretted how the situation between Simmons and the team has worsened to this point.
Morey has said the Sixers were not interested in making a trade right after the season, reiterating that the only steps the team will take – including a potential Simmons trade – will only be made if they help Philadelphia’s championship hunt .
“I do not know what the decision will be, what decision the organization will make, but I would like to play with him again,” 76ers guard Furkan Korkmaz said after Monday’s shootaround ahead of the game against the Nets, who were once again without Kyrie Irving. “You want to see him back here. I want to see him back here. On the field off the field, I know what kind of person he is, how helpful he is … I want him back.”
The Sixers visit the Detroit Pistons for their final preseason game on Friday. They then travel to meet the New Orleans Pelicans in the regular season opener on Oct. 20, before the slate begins Oct. 22 against the Nets.
Tyrese Maxey started in Simmons place in the opening season against the Toronto Raptors. Shake Milton started in the second game, also against Toronto.
“We don’t talk about this all the time,” Korkmaz said when asked if he and his teammates have been able to prevent Simmons’ absence from being a distraction. “At the start of the season, like everyone else, we were also tackling these things. But right now we just need to focus on our game.
“It doesn’t matter who’s on the pitch, who’s not. We just have to be ourselves.”
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.