PHILADELPHIA — When the 76ers reconvene Monday, the scene will be all about Ben Simmons.
There will be questions and speculation about his attitude, his aptitude, but, more than anything else, his absence.
Simmons won't attend the team's media day, which precedes the start of training camp Tuesday. He won't be there for that, either. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported three weeks ago that he apparently never intends to do a minute's more work for the team that made him rich and famous — before he made himself infamous, when he refused to dunk late in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Simmons has made $56 million in salary from the Sixers, the first 10% of that earned while sitting on his behind, healing a foot injury. Now, because his usually fawning coach once said Simmons might not be a championship point guard, Simmons wants out. Now, because his enabling team president once listened to trade offers that would have landed James Harden, the NBA's top scorer three of the last four seasons, Simmons has decided he hates it here.
And, so, he will sit out. And, in doing so, he will be a burden and a distraction to that coach, to that general manager, but, most damningly, he will be the ultimate drag on his teammates.
Those Sixers teammates supported him for these last four seasons, defended him in his times of fault, knowingly miscast his deficiencies, (primarily, his unwillingness to shoot from the perimeter), and even tolerated his increasing reluctance to absorb fouls, because Simmons feared the free-throw line.
All season, as if he were the Suez Canal, Doc Rivers carried water for Simmons. Doc derided anyone who suggested Simmons — a basketball "treasure," per Doc — might be a liability. Rivers was vulgar: "He shouldn't give two craps" about critics. Rivers was insulting, twisting a suggestion that Simmons be benched late in games into the idea that he be benched an entire game: "Then I'll know you don't know basketball."
Doc even tried to gaslight us this past week, claiming he didn't say what he clearly said about Simmons' ability to lead a team to a title.
After the season ended, veteran gunner Danny Green chastised fans whose money pays Simmons for booing his on-court imperfections. "With a guy like Ben ... I think [fans] need to stick behind them, and stick by them as long as they can, until the horn blows."
Danny and Doc will be in attendance Monday.
Ben will not.
Danny and Doc will look like fools.
Not only will Monday be all about Ben Simmons, so too will the drama in the days beyond, with no end in sight. This abandonment of his teammates is a ghastly thing to behold.
That's because, first, Simmons is talented. He could be a Hall of Fame power forward; after all, he made the last three All-Star games after being rookie of the year as a misused point guard. He could be an MVP playing the proper position.
That might be discussed Monday, and beyond, but make no mistake: Until he reports or is traded, the 2021-22 Sixers season will be all about Ben. His many abilities and his meager shortcomings will be rehashed ad nauseam.
It will be about his refusal to address the shortcomings. It will be about his intolerance of any public criticism — despite his pursuit of a public job, his public flaunting of his new L.A. home, and his public recreations.
It will not be about Joel Embiid's peerless regular-season and postseason performances in 2021. It won't be about Embiid's improved conditioning, his evolved professionalism, or his toughness; how he played on an injured knee, and played like the best big man since Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan.
It won't be about how Seth Curry and Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey matured.
It won't be about how Doc Rivers got the team the No. 1 seed in his first season as head coach. It won't be about how new president Daryl Morey snagged Curry and Green to fill out the best starting five in the NBA. It will be about Ben.
He's that guy
Simmons, 25, will become the poster child — emphasis on child — of Generation Z indifference. He will be the stereotype, fairly or not, of iPhone-addicted avocado toast lovers. He will represent the ultimate ghosting move, the person for whom a binding contract means nothing, whose word is worthless, whose whim matters more than the greater good ever could. He will be the essence of entitlement, devoid of substance.
His face will represent every person to whom loyalty is a foreign concept. The person who would betray allies who endlessly defended his honor — honor that never existed beyond his allegiance to himself, his agency, and his shoe company. He will be the man who refuses to acknowledge and address his shortcomings; in fact, he will defend these and insult anyone who suggests they exist.
Between his insubordination, his condescension, and his utter lack of self-awareness, Simmons has made himself the least likable sort of person. Sweaty, shirtless vanity posts on Instagram are one thing. They are explicable, and almost expected, from a peer group convinced that social media is the only valid barometer of self-worth.
But bailing on teammates?
I mean, that's the sort of thing Carson Wentz would do.
Simmons will refuse to report to work while occupying a huge chunk of the salary cap. That means that, while they won't have to pay his salary when regular-season games begin, the Sixers won't spend that $33 million on replacement talent. That means there will be a talent void.
Simmons clearly could not care less.
Not about his teammates.
Not about the town that tried to love him, despite his flaws.
Not about the organization that raised him and gave him what he wanted. That organization now finds itself with an asset on its hands that has sabotaged its own value, far past fearing jump shots.
Every franchise now knows that Ben Simmons is utterly undependable, completely self-centered, a lousy teammate, and a player so crippled by anxieties and ego that he will play traitor, even if it costs him millions.
And we all can see better now The Process, founded on the mass-drafting theory, was not guaranteed. It's impossible to project on draft night which player will be so devoid of character that he will abandon his friends at the first whiff of anything approaching fair comment on his performances.
But at least, for a change, Year 9 of The Process won't be about its entirely predictable failure.
Beginning Monday, it will be all about Ben.