The Philadelphia 76ers and representatives for the disgruntled Ben Simmons are working toward a resolution of the NBA All-Star’s holdout that could potentially lead to his return to the team.
“Clearly that’s what we want, or we wouldn’t be talking if that wasn’t part of it,” coach Doc Rivers said on Monday night.
Simmons missed training camp and the pre-season so far in the wake of his off-season trade demand that has left the Sixers without their three-time All-Star – and the Australian out millions in lost salary and fines.
The 25-year-old, the No.1 draft pick in 2016, still has $147 million ($A200m) and four years left on his contract.
Rivers said he has not talked to Simmons during the holdout, only to Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul.
Sixers President Daryl Morey has fielded offers for Simmons but has yet to find a package to his satisfaction that would keep the the Sixers among the Eastern Conference’s best teams.
After the mess of last season’s play-offs exit and comments made by Rivers and star centre Joel Embiid about Simmons, the coach has attempted to hose down any potential issues in the locker room, should the star guard return.
“Other than that first 10 minutes of welcome back and taking the crap from your teammates about missing camp and stuff, guys want to win,” Rivers said.
“They want to win and they look at Ben as a guy that can help them do that.”
Opening night for the Sixers is October 20 in New Orleans, with Rivers still hopeful Simmons could be available to face the Pelicans.
“My guess is when, if he comes, I think he’ll be ready to play,” Rivers said.
Morey and Rivers have been publicly optimistic since the start of training camp that Simmons would play again for the Sixers.
Rivers said he did not know if the situation could be resolved this week but the possibility of a reunion – as farfetched as it once seemed – could be on the horizon.
“We’ve said from day one what we’ve wanted,” Rivers said.
“We’d love to have him back. Other than that, honestly, there’s nothing to report.”
Rivers said conversations with Klutch “have been good throughout, honestly” and there was no animosity on either side.
The bottom line of the holdout may very well be about the bottom line; the more games and practices Simmons misses, the more money he loses.
Report to Philadelphia and, even if he never plays, the financial bleeding starts to ease up.