In the final minutes of a close game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals, Ben Simmons caught a pass under the Atlanta Hawks’ basket with a wide-open dunk at his disposal. Basketball fans know what came next: Simmons decided not to go to the slam, but became aware of a teammate. The 76ers scored only one point in possession and lost the game and the series.
Immediately in the post-game press conference, Simmons was torn apart by his teammates and coaching staff. When asked if Simmons could be the point guard for a championship team, Sixers coach said Doc Rivers said, “I don’t know the answer to that.” And Simmons’ teammate Joel Embiid implied Simmons’ decision was the turning point of the team’s defeat.
Of course, these comments didn’t fit Simmons well. All summer long, dissatisfaction spilled from his camp into the media. This will continue into the season. Simmons requested a trade, does not play in games, and was kicked out of practice after refusing to cooperate during a team exercise.
What happens to his contract?
To make matters worse, Simmons signed a five-year contract worth $ 170 million in 2019. That means he still owes more than $ 110 million on his deal, including just over $ 33 million this year.
The way Simmons’ deal is structured, he was making $ 8,250,984 on July 1, or 25% of his salary. On October 1, he was owed an additional $ 8,250,984, and the Sixers the money withheld. The remaining half of his salary is to be paid every other week from November 15th.
Thanks to the NBA’s collective agreement, players are fined for unexcused absences, and the fines increase the more time is wasted. The first unexcused, missed workout costs $ 2,500; the second is $ 5,000; the third is $ 7,500; Fines for further practices afterwards may increase even further. If Simmons missed training, such as the team’s media, basketball, and anti-gambling training sessions, he will lose $ 20,000 for each missed training session.
Adding another twist to things: Simmons recently told the team he is not mentally prepared to play basketball. Simmons has an “intellectual disability” clause in his contract, so it is possible that he could get some or all of the money he lost due to fines back.
Will the Sixers try to prove that Simmons was actually mentally ready? Is that even possible? Mental health has grown in importance in the league over the past few seasons. Several notable players have raised awareness of mental wellbeing, including DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Love, and Paul George. If the Sixers tried to fight this fight, they would likely lose it.
The Sixers could still try to trade Simmons to regain some value for him. Even if he stays on the team, as long as he doesn’t openly state that he’s 100% and just sit out because he doesn’t want to play, he’ll likely make the money on his contract.
Either way, you can bet this situation will be an important topic of conversation the next time players and owners are at the negotiating table.