NBA Notebook: Ben Simmons is forcing his hand in Philly
Even in the dog days of summer, there’s always something interesting happening around the Association. Let’s check in on what transpired this week in the latest edition of our NBA Notebook.
BEN SIMMONS PLAYS HIS LAST CARD
The Ben Simmons drama may have entered its final phase this week. Simmons has been in pervasive trade rumors since he flamed out against the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the playoffs and both Joel Embiid and Doc Rivers not so subtly shifted the blame onto him.
Simmons and Philadelphia 76ers general manager Daryl Morey have been in lockstep about finding a suitable destination for the All-Star guard. But Morey has reportedly been seeking an exorbitant package for Simmons, seemingly comfortable to go into the season if he can't find a deal to his liking.
Simmons is now forcing his hand, saying that he will not report to training camp next month and that he will not play for Philadelphia this coming season. It’s a high-stakes play and one that could technically lead to fines and suspensions if he pursues it. But Morey would risk angering powerful player agent Rich Paul and the National Basketball Players Association if he goes that route. There are additional reports that Rich Paul is seeking for Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey, another of his clients, to be traded from the team as well.
It’s a game of brinkmanship with both sides staring down some costly consequences. More than likely, Simmons will be moved before training camp begins. But the longer this goes on, the uglier it will get.
BROOKLYN FORTIFIES ITS FRONTCOURT
In addition to re-signing Blake Griffin this offseason, the Brooklyn Nets continued to bolster their frontcourt this week. With the expectation that DeAndre Jordan will not be with the team this season, they went and added Paul Milsap, perhaps the best remaining free agent on the market. Milsap is a four-time All-Star entering the twilight of his career, and likely sees the Nets as his best chance at a late-career championship.
And in a surprise twist, LaMarcus Aldridge, who retired suddenly after joining Brooklyn last year because of a heart-related health scare, has been cleared to play by NBA doctors and is likely to re-join the Nets. For those hoping for a Brooklyn title, it’s all good news. For those of us looking forward to seeing more developmental minutes for Nic Claxton, perhaps less so.
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CLINT CAPELA EXTENDS IN ATLANTA
The Atlanta Hawks have reached an extension agreement with center Clint Capela, in the two-year $46 million range. Capela had two years remaining on a five-year deal he signed with his previous team, the Houston Rockets, which had been the result of long and acrimonious negotiations.
Extending Capela after he played a critical role as the last line of defense for the surprise East Finals Hawks is a good bit of business. Taking care of their most important veteran leader now is smart, as the Hawks turn to face an opponent that this young group has yet to square off with: expectations.
ONE LAST RIDE FOR "PLAYOFF RONDO"
After reaching a contract buyout with the Memphis Grizzlies as expected, Rajon Rondo almost immediately signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. Rondo was a major piece of the 2020 championship run, memorably sparking the Lakers with his defensive playmaking against the Houston Rockets.
Since then he’s had less success in stints with Atlanta and with the Lakers' crosstown rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, eventually falling out of Ty Lue’s rotation entirely. Rondo has consistently shown poor effort in regular seasons for several years running now, but that won’t be an issue for this version of the Lakers. With a regular-season dynamo like Russell Westbrook on the roster to soak up minutes, Rondo can warm the bench until the postseason, should he desire.
When the Lakers return to the playoffs, a minimum deal and a roster spot is a small price to pay to see if "Playoff Rondo" has one last magical run in him.