Ben Simmons was thrown out of the Philadelphia 76ers practice on Tuesday and subsequently suspended one game for what the team considered detrimental conduct, rendering him ineligible to participate in the club's season opener against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.
“He was a distraction today, I didn’t think he wanted to do what everybody else was doing," 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said, confirming reports that Simmons had been ejected for failing to be engaged. "It was early, it wasn’t a big deal. I just told him, he should leave then, and we went on with practice.”
The interaction, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, occurred during a defensive drill.
After being asked to participate, Simmons reportedly refused. Subsequent requests made by Rivers for Simmons to participate were also declined, after which Rivers told Simmons he should go home and Simmons dropped the ball and left.
"My job as a coach is to keep getting guys to try to buy in…unfortunately this is tougher," Rivers said after practice. "But that’s my job."
On Sunday, Simmons practised with the 76ers and faced his teammates for the first time since his off-season trade demand, the culmination of a weeks-long stalemate between him and the team that often made it appear the two parties had reached an irreconcilable point.
Video of Simmons practising subsequently surfaced on social media, showing him wearing sweat pants with what appeared to be a cell phone in his pocket. Throughout the practice, where he did not practise with the first team, Simmons lingered outside the team huddle, dribbled a basketball and often looked uninterested.
Tuesday's exchange between Simmons and the 76ers appears to have derailed any shaky hopes that the situation could reach a manageable place in time for the season opener.
"At this point I don't care about that man honestly, he does what he wants," Joel Embiid, the 76ers other franchise cornerstone, said. "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, try to lead the guys that we have here -- and I'm sure they feel the same way. Because our chemistry has been excellent despite everything that's been happening the last few months.
"...At the end of the day our job is not to babysit somebody. We get paid for just on the court, go hard, play hard, win some games. That's what we get paid for. We don't get paid to come out here and try to babysit somebody -- that's not our job."
Simmons had missed all of training camp and the early part of the pre-season in the wake of his off-season trade demand. If the standoff had persisted through the season, the financial ramifications for Simmons would have been severe.
Simmons' contract, a five-year, $177-million pact signed in 2019, was structured to include a series of 25 per cent payouts. The second of these $8.25 million instalments, which was set to be paid out on Oct. 1, was withheld amid his training camp holdout. Simmons had already been paid the first 25 per cent of the money owed to him for the season, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.
The money the 76ers have withheld from Simmons has been put in an escrow account, according to Tim Bontemps, Brian Windhorst and Bobby Marks of ESPN, with any fines Simmons accrues being deducted from that amount.
For each game Simmons missed by declining to report, he would forfeit $227,613. That forfeiture, according to Marks, will not come out of the $8.25 million escrow Philadelphia has established.
The 25-year-old from Australia's arrival at camp caught the 76ers by surprise, according to multiple reports. Once clearing the league's COVID-19 protocols, Simmons was eligible to return to practice.
Simmons was expected to break his public silence on the situation between him and the 76ers but, following the suspension, will not conduct a media availability on Tuesday.