Ben Simmons is back and the Philadelphia 76ers have won the standoff – for now.
According to The Athletic, Simmons’ agent Rich Paul had been “working around the clock on a resolution” that ended with the three-time All-Star returning to Philadelphia.
That happened on Tuesday, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski breaking the news at midday that Simmons had arrived in Philadelphia to take a Covid-19 test.
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Wojnarowski added that the “Sixers are hopeful to start moving toward the next steps of a return with Simmons and “wants him back on the court once he clears protocols, but that remains to be seen”.
On top of that, Wojnarowski reported that Philadelphia was “unaware” Simmons was flying in when he did.
“The organization was in constant contact with agent Rich Paul, but Simmons simply showed up at arena to take his Covid test prior to Sixers-Nets tip — and that’s when team officials knew he was in town,” Wojnarowski reported.
This does not in any way mean Simmons has sorted his future or is looking at an extended stay in Philadelphia after a change of heart.
After all, it has been confirmed that Simmons has put his Moorestown house on the market as he eyes a move elsewhere in the league.
Rather, it is more likely a reflection of the 25-year-old starting to question his approach after being fined around $360,000 ($A490,000) for missing Philadelphia’s opening pre-season loss to Toronto.
It comes after Simmons’ camp had discussions with the players association last week where it was confirmed it would be unable to get back the money deducted as a result of the standoff.
In that sense, this development is not all that surprising given he and Paul were struggling for leverage as the Sixers remained firm in their response and the fines began to roll in.
What it does do though is set up quite the intriguing return for Simmons, whose very public ploy to get out of Philadelphia would not have gone down well – both with the playing group and fanbase.
The most important player in the squad – Joel Embiid – branded the Australian’s absence “disappointing” in a telling response earlier this month.
It came after a report emerged claiming Simmons believed his partnership with the big man had ran its course.
That, according to Embiid, was “borderline disrespectful” and it was not the only frustration the Sixers superstar had to get off his chest.
Rather, Embiid also hit back at Simmons’ suggestion he needed to be on a team better suited to his game, claiming: “Our teams have always been built around his needs”.
Both players are professionals but how they will coexist for the time being will be one interesting subplot to follow.
Another will be Simmons’ reception by the fanbase, with a small ‘F*** Ben Simmons’ chant even breaking out at Philadelphia’s preseason game on Tuesday.
“He is not well liked at the moment and it is very difficult to imagine a scenario where he would repair his reputation with the Philadelphia fanbase,” he said.
“That is just the reality of where we are at. I think a lot of folks have been frustrated he hasn’t expanded his offensive game and despite the immense potential he showed winning Rookie of the Year, making All-Star games early in his career, he has not developed a jump shot the way many Philadelphia fans hoped.
“Then the way things have developed this summer with him requesting a trade with the team after a poor second-round playoffs performance, I think for many fans that has exacerbated their dislike of Simmons.
“It would be stunning if Ben Simmons will be a Philadelphia fan favourite again.”
As for what Simmons’ return could mean for an eventual trade, Philadelphia will be hoping he can rediscover some of his best form.
That way the Sixers will be able to approach rival teams with evidence Simmons is not the same player that passed up that wide-open layup against Atlanta last year.
Put simply, the 76ers have little to no leverage right now to get the All-Star-calibre return it is after.
A strong showing from Simmons on the court could change that.
While it may be hard to see Simmons himself motivated to help the Sixers out in that sense, it ultimately will be in his best interests too.
The three-time All-Star reportedly does not want to play for the franchise again and playing poorly could only extend his stay should Philadelphia remain firm in its trade demands.
Simmons has four years and $147 million ($A202m) remaining on his current max contract.