Sports

Sources: Sixers eye Simmons return amid talks

Discussions have gained momentum on All-Star Ben Simmons returning to the Philadelphia 76ers, likely as soon as this week, sources told ESPN on Monday.

Philadelphia management and coach Doc Rivers progressed in talks over the weekend with Simmons’ agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, on a resolution for Simmons to report to the team, sources said.

Simmons could soon speak with team officials, something he hasn’t done directly since a late August meeting in Los Angeles when he reiterated his desire to be traded, sources told ESPN.

He has become more open to the possibility of ending his time away from the team and reporting to Philadelphia, sources said.

The Sixers have canvassed the league throughout the offseason for trades but have 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, sources said.

Those trade talks would likely continue with Simmons’ return, but Sixers president Daryl Morey and Rivers are hopeful to continue working to convince Simmons on remaining long-term with the franchise, sources said.

Simmons will have lost $1 million in salary once he misses Monday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.

He has four years and $147 million left on his max contract, including $33 million for 2021-22.

Simmons asked for a trade in the immediate aftermath of Philadelphia’s Game 7 loss at home to the Atlanta Hawks — in which Simmons infamously passed out of a wide-open dunk with less than four minutes to go that would’ve tied the score. The Sixers wound up never tying the score again.

After that game, both Rivers and Embiid gave answers that received attention in the media — Rivers for saying “I don’t know,” when asked whether Simmons could be a championship point guard, and Embiid for saying the whiffed dunk was the turning point of the game.

Rivers has said that his comments after the game were taken out of context, while Embiid said he has no regrets about what he said because, in his mind, he simply laid out what happened. Embiid, however, has said he has regrets about how the situation between Simmons and the team has deteriorated to this point.

Morey has said the Sixers weren’t interested in doing a trade right after the season, and reiterated the only moves the team will make — including a potential Simmons trade — will be made only if they help Philadelphia’s pursuit of a championship.

“I don’t know what the decision is going to be, what decision the organization makes, but I would like to play with him again,” 76ers guard Furkan Korkmaz said after Monday’s shootaround ahead of the game with the Nets, who were once again without Kyrie Irving. “You want to see him back here. I want to see him back here. On the court, off the court, I know what kind of person he is, how helpful he is. … I would like to have him back.”

The Sixers visit the Detroit Pistons for their final preseason game on Friday. They then travel to face the New Orleans Pelicans in the regular-season opener Oct. 20 before the home slate begins Oct. 22 against the Nets.

Tyrese Maxey started in Simmons’ place in the opening preseason game against the Toronto Raptors. Shake Milton started in the second game, also against Toronto.

“We are not talking about this all the time,” Korkmaz said when asked if he and his teammates have been able to prevent Simmons’ absence from being a distraction. “At the beginning of the season, like everybody, we were also taking about this stuff. But right now, we just need to be focusing on our games.

“It doesn’t matter who is on the court, who is not. We just need to be ourselves.”

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.

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