NBA Rumors: Latest on Ben Simmons, Kyrie Trade Buzz, Klay Thompson's Return
The NBA is in full preseason mode, with teams preparing for the real thing with exhibition action. While some star veterans—like LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers—may not see much value in preseason games themselves, this is an important point in the preseason.
Teams are figuring out what their lineups can and will look like during the regular season. For the Philadelphia 76ers, the lineup may or may not include point guard Ben Simmons.
While Simmons is a three-time All-Star and the 2016 first-overall draft selection, his future in Philadelphia is cloudy at best. It has been since a poor performance during a losing semifinal series against the Atlanta Hawks. Trade chatter has surrounded Simmons pretty much since the series ended., and the buzz has not subsided, even with the regular season quickly approaching.
Simmons is back with the 76ers following an early preseason holdout. However, he still doesn't appear fully invested in the franchise. According to Kyle Neubeck of the Philadelphia Voice, Simmons has underwhelmed during individual drills and workouts.
"The early returns have not been especially encouraging—one source described Simmons as 'going through the motions,' though it was noted that things have improved each day over the few days he has been here," Neubeck wrote.
The reality is that Simmons doesn't want to be a part of the 76ers—at least, that was the belief a month ago.
"Simmons will not report for the opening of training camp next week and intends to never play another game for the franchise," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski wrote in September.
The 76ers, meanwhile, are open to moving Simmons, but not at a bargain-basement price.
"They are after difference-making players, not more solid role players to add to what they feel is a reasonably deep (and young) group," Neubeck wrote.
If a team isn't willing to move an All-Star-caliber player, it isn't going to have a shot at Simmons. However, several teams are interested. According to Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer, nine teams have been identified, with another lurking in the shadows.
"There is a 10th 'mystery' franchise that has held substantial trade conversations with Philadelphia of late, sources told B/R, yet it remains unclear, even to members of Klutch Sports, who this purported additional suitor is," Fischer wrote.
Plenty can happen between now and the start of the season, but it appears more likely than not that Simmons will be moved.
Irving's future is also uncertain, due to his decision to not comply with New York City's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Because of the mandate, and Irving's decision to not be vaccinated, Irving would not be allowed to enter an indoor gym. Rather than make Irving a part-time player available only for away games, the Nets have decided to shelve him for the time being.
"These are hard decisions," general manager Sean Marks said, per ESPN's Tim Bontemps. "Just like I'm sure it wasn't easy for Kyrie either to have to make that [decision] to not be around his teammates."
Irving also won't be offered a contract extension from Brooklyn, as Shams Charania of The Athletic confirmed on The Glue Guys podcast.
"He was willing to sacrifice, at the end of the day, $16 million in salary this upcoming year and $186 million, as far as an extension, that he will not be offered now," Charania said.
As Charania wrote for The Athletic, though, Irving could play for a different franchise—if he's open to the idea: "Rival teams believe the Nets would be open to a significant trade offer for Irving, but his openness to playing for other franchises is unclear. Irving will be fully eligible in all markets except New York City and San Francisco."
Irving insisted that retirement isn't part of his immediate plan during an Instagram Live post (h/t Michael Scotto of USA Today and HoopsHype).
If Irving isn't going to play in New York this season, there is a chance he plays elsewhere. Much will hinge on what the Nets can get in a trade and Irving's willingness to play for a different franchise.
While we may not see Simmons with the 76ers or Irving with the Nets this season, we are likely to see Klay Thompson with the Warriors at some point. The standout shooting specialist is recovering from a torn Achilles, and it appears his return is imminent.
Reporting for Stadium, Charania announced that Thompson is expected to return to practice within roughly a month—though Golden State isn't going to rush him into game action:
"I'm told Klay Thompson will be cleared for full practice over the next month or so. ... I would look somewhere in the December-January range for his return. But the Warriors will be cautious. They've been doing a lot of data and science and leaning a lot on data and science, I'm told. So I would expect them to continue to do that."
Charania pegged "the December, January range" for Thompson's return to game action.
The Warriors have every reason to approach Thompson's return with caution. He was recovering from a torn ACL when he suffered the Achilles injury last season.
Thompson recently stated that he hopes to earn a spot at the top of the all-time three-point list along with teammate Steph Curry.
"Hopefully one day he can be one and I can be two. That would be pretty iconic, and I think it's within reach," Thompson told NBC Sports' Kerith Burke (h/t Taylor Wirth of NBC Sports Bay Area).
Expect Thompson's chase for the record books—along with a return to the postseason—to be a motivating factor as he continues his recovery.