The Ben Simmons saga is reaching a critical point, with the Sixers' media day less than a week away and the 25-year-old star suddenly faced with backing up his threat to holdout of training camp until he's traded to a different team.
Tensions are rising. National reporters are suddenly all flush with the same information: Simmons is set on never playing for the Sixers again. NBA chaos is back in the air
It's a bittersweet problem for the league itself. On one hand, the league's popularity has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade as the player empowerment era has led to a WWE-style boom in personality-driven drama and intrigue. This is just the latest in a long line of player-centric unrest and forced movement.
On the other hand, though, the constant upheaval of superstars leaving the teams who drafted them and creating uncomfortable work environments isn't the best look.
Which is why NBA insider Marc Stein reported Tuesday, as the Simmons buzz turns into a roar, that several insiders around the league believe NBA commissioner Adam Silver could sanction Simmons if he indeed doesn't report to training camp next wee:
"There is likewise great curiosity about the NBA's potential reaction. Would Commissioner Adam Silver go beyond exerting mere backchannel pressure on Simmons to report and step in to sanction him if he doesn’t? Several league insiders think so, but I’m not so sure. While true that the NBA dreads the idea of training camp holdouts coming back into vogue, like we saw in the early 1990s before the advent of rookie-scale contracts, intervention from the league is not always instant when discipline can come from the team first. The onus will be on the Sixers first to impose fines or a suspension."
This is clearly not a unanimous belief among those in the know, but merely the idea of Silver sanctioning Simmons floating around league circles and some insiders basically expecting it is oh-so fascinating.
This is probably the most blatant version of a "get me out of here" demand the league has had in a while, but they've been dealing with the forced exits of superstars for years now. Kyrie Irving demanded a trade from Cleveland; Anthony Davis made it clear he wanted out of New Orleans, and sat out games in the middle of the season; James Harden showed up to Rockets training camp last year and played the most lackadaisical brand of basketball I've ever seen until he was shipped to Brooklyn.
Simmons straight-up no-showing would be the next step beyond simply showcasing your displeasure, so perhaps that's why Silver would consider stepping in and maybe levying extra fines - or maybe even a suspension? - upon Simmons.
I personally find it hard to believe Silver would set such a hard line. Simmons is simply exerting his right to forfeit money (if the holdout reaches the second month of the season) in exchange for not doing his job. It's cowardly, and his forced exit from Philly will gain him infamy across generations of the city's sports fans, but he's made his wishes clear, and if he doesn't show up he probably doesn't pose much of a disruptive threat to the Sixers' organization.
Silver, however, wants the conversation around the NBA to be about the game itself, not a disgruntled 25-year-old's wishes to move West. And so, if Simmons indeed holds out starting next week, we all might want to keep an eye out for a letter from commish's office reprimanding Simmons for his behavior.
What a sight that would be.