Do 76ers have leverage? Sports contract expert weighs in on Ben Simmons saga

Doc Rivers kicked out the All-Star guard during practice Tuesday and suspended him for the season opener.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Sports contract expert weighs in on Ben Simmons saga
"The fact that there's four years left on the deal gives the 76ers some leverage," said sports contract expert Andrew Brandt, who his no stranger to the tense negotiations.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Ben Simmons doesn't want to play - or even practice - with the Philadelphia 76ers anymore. So coach Doc Rivers kicked out the All-Star guard and suspended him for the season opener.

Joel Embiid's take on the whole fiasco? Good riddance. Last season's NBA MVP runner-up put Simmons on blast: "At this point, I don't care about that man. He does whatever he wants."

Simmons refused to play as a full participant at Tuesday's practice, a day after he lingered outside a team huddle and mostly stayed alone in a corner without talking to teammates.

Embiid dropped multiple references Tuesday to not working as a babysitter anymore for the 25-year-old Australian guard, who still has four years and $147 million left on his max contract.

"I'm not here to babysit," Embiid said. "I'd be willing to babysit if someone wants to listen, but that's not my job. That's out of my control."

Simmons has not talked publicly since his offseason trade request - his early exit from practice meant he skipped Tuesday's scheduled media availability - and there's no telling if he'll return to the Sixers.

SEE ALSO: Philadelphia 76ers suspend Ben Simmons for one game due to 'conduct detrimental' to team

In a statement, the organization said Simmons was suspended due to "conduct detrimental to the team."

Sixers President Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand, who were at Tuesday's practice, have yet to receive a trade offer worthy of the franchise dealing their three-time All-Star. Morey said at the start of training camp he wouldn't be forced into making a trade just for the sake of appeasing Simmons.

According to Andrew Brandt, the executive director of Jeffrey S. Moorad Center for the Study of Sports Law at Villanova University, the Sixers are the ones with the leverage.

"The fact that there's four years left on the deal gives the Sixers some leverage," said Brandt.

During his career, Brandt has represented top athletes like Michael Jordan and served as the VP for the Green Bay Packers, negotiating all player contracts. He's also consulted and negotiated contracts for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Brandt says the Sixers have what Simmons wants and that's his money.

Simmons gets paid quarterly and he received his first installment in the summer. But the Sixers have kept Simmons' second installment and he won't get any of it until he's on the court.

"They basically told Simmons and his reps we've got your $8.25 million and we're going to put it in escrow. We're going use it for fines and/or discipline suspensions," said Brandt.

He also says the franchise could keep more of Simmons' money should they need to.

"If it gets to a point where they need to access more than $8.25 million, that'll be the next quarterly installment of his salary, and they'll hold that as well," said Brandt.

But as far as a trade goes, Brandt believes Morey will hold out until he needs to.

"He continues to try and make a trade that's a viable trade. Not a trade for role players, a trade for assets," said Brandt.

Sixers coach Doc Rivers speaks to the media shortly after Ben Simmons was kicked out of practice and suspended for one game.

Simmons will not play Wednesday night in New Orleans and it seems inconceivable he will suit up for Friday's home opener in front of 20,000 furious fans ready to boo him out of the Wells Fargo Center.

And the drama doesn't appear to have an immediate end.

"Every day, every single moment, I'm going to give Ben a chance to join the team and be part of the team," Rivers said. "He's under contract to be part of the team and that's not going to change. Sometimes it happens quick and guys join back in. Sometimes it doesn't. I've been in both situations and I'm fine with that."

Embiid, Philly's franchise player, said a bond as tight as it had ever been last season with Simmons is no more. Embiid said he hadn't talked to Simmons in the three days - well, two - they practiced.

"It is not my problem," Embiid said. "I get paid to deliver and that's to win games, and obviously, the ultimate goal is to win the championship. I can't do it alone."

Without Simmons, the Sixers face 20-1 odds to win the NBA championship, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. That's one reason why Rivers, at least publicly, wants to work toward a harmonious resolution with Simmons.

"He's a good player. He can help us," Rivers said. "The one thing I know about players: Our players will welcome anyone back who wants to be in. And players will not welcome anybody who does not want to be in."

Simmons averaged 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists over four seasons with Philadelphia, which drafted him out of LSU, where he played only one season. His defining moment as a Sixer came when he passed up a wide-open dunk against Atlanta in the second round of last year's playoffs that would have tied the game late in Game 7. Simmons took the blame for Philly's early postseason exit.

Embiid was among a small group of Sixers that tried to visit with Simmons in the offseason and talk sense into him, only to get rebuffed by the No. 1 pick of the 2016 draft.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.