Daryl Morey was all smiles on a sun-dappled afternoon while taking selfies with fans in the Chase Fieldhouse parking lot Saturday after his Sixers’ annual “Blue x White Scrimmage.”
The President of the Sixers laughed when asked if he was privy to the ridiculous trade rumors circulating on the Internet.
“I know about the rumors, and they are ridiculous,” Morey said with a chuckle.
One alleged proposal had the Boston Celtics offering a package led by Al Horford, whose onerous contract Morey — in perhaps his greatest feat with the Sixers — somehow shed a year ago. Another rumor had the Orlando Magic dealing young talent, led by former Sixer flameout Markelle Fultz, who had health and shooting issues.
Morey waxed on about the Ben Simmons situation.
“We are where we are,” Morey told this writer. “We’re trying to do what’s best for the team.”
Morey has understandably avoided the media while trying to deal with the enigmatic Simmons and his superagent Rich Paul. There has not been much for Morey to say since trade offers are reportedly well under Morey’s demands for a player who made like he was in the witness protection program since his disappearing act in a disappointing playoff run.
Morey was surprised, like the rest of the basketball world, when Ben Simmons returned to Philadelphia Monday prior to his teammates playing the Brooklyn Nets for a preseason game at the Wells Fargo Center.
The soap opera continues between the Sixers and Simmons, who demanded a trade shortly after his team was knocked out of the playoffs by the upstart Atlanta Hawks in June. Simmons held out until the Sixers decided not to pay the 6-foor-10 point guard for failing to be part of his team.
But even soap operas don’t have as many questions as the Sixers/Simmons saga.
So where do we begin?
1. Did Simmons return just to pick up a hefty paycheck?
Simmons and his agent, for some unknown reason, didn’t count on the Sixers docking the three-time All Star. Getting paid certainly had much to do with Simmons’ return to South Philly.
2. Will Simmons play to increase his trade value, which has plummeted after a disastrous playoff performance against the Atlanta Hawks?
It would certainly help Simmons, who wants to be traded, find a new home, and the Sixers to potentially deal for an All-Star caliber playe in return to help the Sixers achieve their quest for the franchise’s first championship since 1983.
3. Will Simmons agree to play?
Morey and coach Doc Rivers hope so, but that’s the $147 million dollar question.
4. If Simmons plays, how will his teammates deal with him in the locker room and on the court?
That will be fascinating, since as robotic as they seem at times, NBA players are human. Simmons has reportedly made some inflammatory remarks about Joel Embiid and company. Ghosting his team for months spoke volumes. It’s evident Simmons doesn’t want to play in Philadelphia. But will Embiid and the rest of the crew take one for, well, the team — since the squad is definitely better with Simmons. Embiid himself said so, but who knows what the Sixers are saying to each other privately?
5. Will Simmons pull a James Harden and try to burn the locker room down?
Could Simmons force a trade by acting like Harden did in his waning days as a Rocket, when the bearded wonder torched his teammates last year before being abruptly dealt to the Nets? Extremely doubtful. Embiid would swat that down like one of his incendiary blocks. If Simmons would attempt to set the joint on fire, he would be processed!
6. Is there a chance Simmons works everything out with the Sixers, who claim the organization would like to reconcile with him and forget all that occured over the last four months?
One take is that winning cures everything and time heals all wounds… but it’s doubtful. It’s obvious that Simmons on the whole, would rather not be in Philadelphia. This is a marriage gone bad, and the problem is akin to a prenuptial agreement. Simmons signed a massive contract extension in 2019. The shame of it is that the Sixers with Simmons would be a formidable team with the addition of Georges Niang, who is a solid catch addition, and Andre Drummond, who is the best backup Embiid’s ever had. If Tyrese Maxey and perimeter defensive ace Matisse Thybulle can raise their three-point percentage, the Sixers will be a challenging foe. The wildcard is Isaiah Joe, who has long-range assassin written all over his shot.
What if Simmons played serious minutes with shooters like Joe and Niang without Embiid? Would that convince him to stay? Even if the team were set up to his liking, the answer is no.
7. When will the Sixers trade Simmons?
It’s obvious that Morey will wait this out like he’s hunting Moby Dick. Simmons will likely be dealt after December 15.
8. How would Sixers fans react to Simmons return to Philadelphia?
The answer is two-fold.
The image of the hateful Philadelphia sports fan is overblown.
If Simmons returns soon as a Sixer, there will be many boos, but there will be more cheers than you can imagine — IF the team wins. The Sixers’ loyal fan base reacted to the rare Simmons three-point field goals as if he cured baldness. For those who have attended Sixers games since the Australian phenom started playing in 2018, know that the base has offered unrelenting support for Simmons. If Simmons returned and, say, posted three triple-doubles in a six-game span, the fans would save the boos for when Trae Young returns to Philly.
However, when Simmons returns in another jersey it will be a completely different ballgame. The booing and the jeering will be unparalleled. It’s hard to imagine the decibel level of hate when Simmons steps to the free throw line in opposing colors. Would Simmons pull a Kyrie and ask for a personal day when his next team plays in South Philly or would he ask Adam Silver if he can sport Beats by Dre at the charity stripe?
We can speculate, but nobody knows how this will unfold. That includes Simmons, Morey and Paul. Morey will indeed do what’s best for the Sixers. But what is best for Philadelphia?