Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid urged teammate Ben Simmons to "buy in" amid his unexpected return to the franchise ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Simmons reported to the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers' home arena, Monday night to restart COVID-19 testing after being away from the team while awaiting a trade that hasn't materialized.
Embiid told reporters the situation "doesn't need to be awkward:"
Head coach Doc Rivers added: "Players don't get involved in people's business. They want to win. And they look at Ben as a guy that can help them do that."
The 76ers attempted to find a suitable trade for Simmons, a three-time All-Star and two-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, but they "never came close to finding a deal that returned them the kind of elite player they'd want" for their starting point guard, per Wojnarowski.
Philadelphia has been in a state of turmoil since being eliminated by the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of last season's playoffs.
After its Game 7 loss, Embiid questioned Simmons' decision to pass up a wide-open layup in the final minutes and Rivers was asked whether the 25-year-old Australian could be the point guard on a championship team.
"I don't know the answer to that right now," Rivers replied.
Perhaps fed up with being the scapegoat for the Sixers' inability to reaching title-level expectations in recent years, Simmons didn't report for the start of training camp and appeared ready to remain sidelined until the a deal was found.
Instead, just nine days before Philly opens the regular season by visiting the New Orleans Pelicans, the LSU product started to process to rejoin the roster.
Meetings are planned starting Tuesday about how to reintegrate Simmons into the squad, with a focus on whether the money he's been fined for missing practices and games would be returned, and there's a belief the discussions will show whether "reconciliation is possible," per Wojnarowski.
Since the Sixers gained "no traction" on a trade, the guard may have little choice beyond playing for the Sixers to open the campaign in an effort to bolster his own trade value if his long-term goal remains getting out of Philadelphia.
Wojnarowski noted the trade market tends to heat up after Dec. 15, when more players become contractually available for deals, but Simmons' "intentions" remain unclear heading into Tuesday's meetings after reporting to the team Monday night.
It sounds like Embiid and Rivers are willing to welcome him back with open arms if he's willing to play for the Sixers again, which is something that seemed like an extreme long shot in recent weeks.
More clarity on the situation should arrive in the coming days.