Ben Simmons does not plan to report for Philadelphia 76ers training camp next week and is prepared to face the potential fines and suspensions necessary to force a trade.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported Simmons "intends to never play another game for the franchise." He has cut off all communication with the team since an August meeting in Los Angeles in which he informed team management of his plan to hold out of training camp.
The situation is shaping up to be as toxic—if not more so—than when James Harden forced himself out Houston last season. Whereas Harden eventually showed up and played dispassionate basketball until the Rockets got fed up and traded him, Simmons plans to force the Sixers' hand by not showing up at all.
It would be unprecedented for a player to potentially forgo his salary in an effort to leave a franchise—especially a $33 million salary. But that is evidence of how broken the relationship between the Sixers and Simmons has gotten over the last year, between the team shopping him for Harden and Simmons' lack of offensive development.
Simmons was the focal point of criticism after the Atlanta Hawks shockingly eliminated the Sixers in the second round of the playoffs. His struggles at the free-throw line sapped him of his confidence, which culminated in him passing up a wide-open dunk in the fourth quarter of their Game 7 loss.
Joel Embiid and Doc Rivers both cast some blame on Simmons following that loss Atlanta, with Embiid saying Simmons passing up the dunk was the turning point in the game and Rivers saying he was unsure if the three-time All-Star could be the point guard of a championship team.
While the Sixers attempted to smooth things out with Simmons once emotions cooled down, the damage was done. They once again spent most of the offseason attempting to shop Simmons for a superstar, doing so with the blessing of him and his agent, Rich Paul. When it became clear that the Sixers weren't going to get a package of their liking, Simmons and Paul went on the offensive.
A Sixers source told PhillyVoice's Kyle Neubeck that the team wasn't keen on packages featuring mostly draft picks and young players:
"There are a few deals you could say, we do this, and we'll gamble that sometime later, we'll take draft picks and turn it back into having [a title] chance. But why do that?...there's no reason to go get draft picks right now because you could just do it all at once. Why take the risk that you do that and you can't flip back out of it? It makes no sense with Joel in his prime."
The situation may boil down to a game of chicken. It feels unlikely that the Sixers will trade someone of Simmons' caliber for less than full value, but it appears equally unlikely that Simmons will blink and show up for training camp or the preseason.
With the regular season less than a month away, the situation is bound to get only more toxic from here.