Daryl Morey hopes Ben Simmons returns to Philadelphia 76ers, cites Aaron Rodgers-Green Bay Packers reconciliation

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey says he has "hope" of a reconciliation between star Ben Simmons and the Sixers, pointing to the Aaron Rodgers situation in Green Bay as proof that things can turn around between a team and its disgruntled star.

"I think there's a lot of hope," Morey said Monday morning during his season-opening news conference alongside coach Doc Rivers. "I would say I watched last night a player lead his team to victory when a thousand pounds of digital ink were spilled on how much he would never play for that team again.

"Look, every situation is different, but we have a lot of optimism that we can make it work here."

Rodgers, like Simmons, wanted off his current team while under contract. But unlike Simmons, Rodgers reported to training camp, and now is playing regular-season games for the Packers.

Simmons did not report to training camp Monday, as ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported would happen last week. When asked whether Simmons might be fined for not showing up, Morey said he wouldn't get into specifics but added that it is a reasonable expectation of the path Philadelphia will take.

"I'd say we're not going to talk about the specifics of fines or things like that, but I will say it's pretty clearly spelled out in the CBA and in his contract what happens," Morey said.

Morey said that the last time he spoke to Simmons personally was in a meeting in Los Angeles several weeks ago but has since been in touch with his representation, led by agent Rich Paul. He said Simmons asked for a trade right after the season, but Philadelphia wasn't interested in doing a trade then, 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.

"Ben is a very good player, a big part of this team," Morey said. "We are disappointed he's not here. We're making our choices, but we're excited about the players who are here. We're going to focus on them, and we're taking our journey to be a championship team. We don't know exactly what that will be.

"In terms of what trades or non-trades, I only have one focus, and that's to do what gives us the best chance to win a championship."

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 game. The Sixers wound up never tying the game again.

After the game, both Rivers and Joel 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 repeated the claim he gave in interviews last week, that his comments after the game were taken out of context.

"I still think the world of him," Rivers said. "I still think the world of him as a player.

"Just because he doesn't do things you want him to do doesn't mean he's a bad player. He made the All-Star team ... he almost won the Defensive Player of the Year award."

Embiid, on the other hand, said he has no regrets about what he said because, in his mind, he simply laid out what happened. He went on to say that the person who had the best case to be angry at him was Matisse Thybulle, who wound up missing a free throw in the wake of Simmons passing to him instead of dunking the ball.

"What did I actually say?" Embiid asked, when he was asked whether he had any regrets about what he said. "I don't think I said anything. I was asked a question what was the turning point of the game, and I really believe that was the turning point of the game. If there's anybody that should be mad, it's me calling freaking Matisse out for missing a freaking free throw. But we all talk about it, we all joke about it, we know we've got to be better.

"So no, I don't have any regrets. I didn't call out anybody. I just stated the facts. I'm honest. I can't lie. That's just me. So I don't have any regrets because I don't feel like I put anybody in a situation where they had to feel bad."

Embiid did, however, say he has regrets about how the situation between Simmons and the team has deteriorated to this point. When asked what he would've said to Simmons if he'd been given the chance to talk to him -- after he confirmed he and his teammates attempted to do, only for Simmons to rebuff them -- Embiid paused for 10 seconds while deciding what to say.

"Honestly, I would probably say I'm disappointed," Embiid eventually said. "Because I -- look, obviously we haven't won anything, but just going by what has been said through the media and you guys tweeting on your sources and stuff, I would look at it in the way that, look at what we've been able to do. ... In the regular season we've been so good, and so dominant, that we know it's working. ... I'm disappointed that we're in this situation. ... I'm just disappointed he's not here, because he knows it, too. He knows we can win together."

Rivers all but confirmed Tyrese Maxey will fill in for Simmons as the team's starting point guard, joking, "I don't think that's really that hard, on that one."

Danny Green later said that Maxey "carries himself like a star. I believe one day he will be a star."

Simmons, however, is nowhere to be seen, and the Sixers plan to adjust to that new reality as they take the court Tuesday for their first practice of training camp.

"He's a huge part of our team," Tobias Harris said. "He's our point guard. I was telling this to somebody the other day. If you look around the NBA at any team, a championship team or a bottom-of-the-pack team, your starting point guard goes out the lineup and the team is kind of in a weird spot. The PG position is one of the most important positions in the NBA.

"So him not going to be here, it is disappointing. But like I said to guys on the team, to all of us, he's still part of our team, Ben is still part of our team, he's still got 15 guys in that locker room, probably seven or eight who played with him last year, that's still his brother, and he's still our brother as well. So we hope the situation could get resolved. If it doesn't, we move on and we get this thing going. Because at the end of the day, the other 29 teams that have to play against us do not care. They come in and kick our butt, and we need to be ready. That's the reality of it."