It has been a very interesting week so far in the NBA with opening night next Tuesday. After saying he would not play for the Philadelphia 76ers this season, All-Star Ben Simmons caved and has reported to the team. The news isn’t as good for the Brooklyn Nets, who are +220 favorites on the NBA odds to win their first title, as seven-time All-Star guard Kyrie Irving will not be allowed to play at all this season unless he gets a COVID vaccine.
NBA 2021: Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons Drama Continues
Simmons had held out in hopes of accelerating a trade, and returning could become the answer to reinvigorating his value in the marketplace. Under the terms of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, Simmons lost roughly $360,000 for each of the two preseason games he missed. Simmons has four years and $147 million left on his contract. He may be returning just as soon as it became clear that he would be unable to recoup the money being deducted from the $8.25 million [of his 2021-22 salary that the Sixers had placed] in escrow.
The Sixers called around the league throughout the offseason for trades but were been unable to find a deal that would bring them back the kind of comparable star they’d want to continue to build a championship contender around All-NBA center Joel Embiid. Philly’s decision-makers and the stars themselves haven’t figured out how to maximize both players’ talents when it matters most.
It’s no sure thing that Simmons will be ready for the start of the season as he will have to pass all COVID protocols and obviously hadn’t been practicing. But if Simmons kept in shape, then he could be good to go.
“I personally haven’t talked to him since the season ended. Obviously, I tried, but it wasn’t successful as a lot of my teammates have. It’s unfortunate the whole situation happened, but we’re a better team with him on the floor. I think there are going to be some adjustments, but it doesn’t need to be awkward,” Embiid said. “We are professionals, we want to win. I want to win. He gives me the best chance to win, so that’s what I’m going to go with.”
As for Irving, Nets GM Sean Marks said Tuesday that Kyrie Irving’s decision to not comply with New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate left the organization with “no choice” but to send him away from the team until he’s able to fully participate.
The vaccine mandate, which went into effect last month, states that anyone entering an indoor gym — including Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden, the homes of the Nets and New York Knicks — must have had at least one COVID-19 shot. Irving for whatever reason refuses to get even one shot. In theory, Irving could have played in all road games, but the Nets weren’t doing that.
“Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant,” Marks said. “Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose. Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability.”
Marks did, however, emphasize that the Nets would welcome Irving back with open arms “under a different set of circumstances.”
One very easy fix to these problems? A trade of Simmons to the Nets for Irving. Simmons would provide sorely needed defense in Brooklyn. Irving would provide sorely needed offense in Philadelphia. However, the 76ers reportedly are not interested in Kyrie, who is a marvelous player but tends to wear out his welcome on teams. The 76ers are still holding out hope that they could land Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard in a deal for Simmons.