Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons has filed a grievance challenging the nearly $20 million in salary the Philadelphia 76ers withheld from him this season, setting up a potentially big showdown, sources tell ESPN Saturday.
The grievance – which will now go through an arbitration process – could have bigger implications for the league amid future mental health issues and NBA contracts.
Philadelphia has repeatedly insisted that Simmons breached his contract under the collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association and was entitled to recoup money advanced to him before the season. The NBA and NBPA are at odds on this issue and arbitration could now set a precedent for how future mental health and contract issues could be handled.
The case was filed with the team, NBA and NBPA over the weekend, sources said.
The 76ers insisted that Simmons breached his playing contract by not showing up at the start of training camp and refusing to play through the preseason and regular season. Simmons arrived in Philadelphia late in the preseason but cited his sanity for the reason his participation in team activities was so limited.
The 76ers and Simmons disagreed on the degrees of access the team and its doctors have been given to Simmons to diagnose and affirm his sanity.
In an attempt to resolve the matter without arbitration, Simmons’ representatives have had several conversations with the Sixers since the successful trade to Brooklyn for James Harden on Feb. 10, sources said. Those talks ended without a resolution, resulting in the filing of the grievance, sources said.
Simmons and his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, asked for a trade in a post-season meeting after the three-time All-Star guard fell out with the team following a poor performance in a loss in the Eastern Conference Finals against Atlanta. Simmons, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, was one of the league’s top defensemen and signed a five-year, $170 million max contract in 2019.
Beginning with Simmons’ first paycheck on November 15, Philadelphia began collecting the $360,000 per game salary for every game Simmons missed that season. Because Simmons received a $16.5 million advance on his $33 million offseason salary, there was not enough money in each paycheck to cover per-game deductions.
Minus the amount of escrow withheld by the NBA, the 76ers had withheld nearly $1.3 million from Simmons’ salary on each of his paychecks. It has continued since the trade to the Nets, who had to deduct Simmons’ salary to transfer him to the 76ers, sources said. Since Simmons’ last paycheck is April 30, the deductions should be carried over into the offseason. Once again. Simmons will receive an $8.25 million advance on July 1 and October 1.
The NBA collective agreement states that a grievance must be filed within 30 days of the date of the event on which the grievance is based — or within 30 days of the date the facts of the case are known to engage the grievance, according to the ABC league.
It’s been six weeks since Simmons was traded from Philadelphia to Brooklyn, but Simmons’ reps say they believe the trade didn’t trigger a 30-day window to file a grievance because the issue lasted the entire season , sources said.
Simmons has yet to play a game for the Nets. He had previously suffered a flare up of a back injury as he attempted to ramp up his conditioning to make his Nets debut. Simmons, who hadn’t played since the June playoff loss, received an epidural injection to treat a herniated disc in his back last month. Simmons’ prior number and relevant scans were leaked during trade talks and did not pose significant long-term issues for the Nets at the time, sources said.
The injury first hit Simmons in the spring of the pandemic-interrupted 2020 season. He also reported back discomfort when he reported to Sixers training camp in October. The injury was evaluated and treated by Philadelphia team doctors, and he was cleared to return to basketball shortly thereafter. That period was the only time Philadelphia did not find Simmons out of contract this season, sources said.