John Wall Is Healthy And Likely Won’t Play This Season, Ben Simmons Isn’t Ready To Play But The 76ers Want Him To | Why Is The NBA OK With One And Not The Other?

League Can't Have It Both Ways

John Wall (l), Ben Simmons (r) Credit: Flickr

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said it’s likely John Wall will not play anywhere in the NBA this season. Wall is a member of the Houston Rockets, and has about $92M in salary owed to him. $44.3M this year and a $47.4M player option next season.

Wall and the Rockets agreed at the beginning of the season, that the former all-star point guard would not play for the team while they worked on a trade. The reason being, the Rockets are rebuilding with their No. 1 draft pick Jalen Green and other young players. Wall, a veteran with game left, should be in a situation where he could win.

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On the surface this seems fair and reasonable. Both parties get what they want. But the point of playing games in this league is to win. That’s your responsibility as a franchise. You put the best possible product on the floor to win. The Rockets are an abysmal 1-10, tied for the bottom of the league. Wouldn’t playing a healthy Wall help?

But the Rockets don’t want to win. They want to tank, be in the draft lottery again and grab another elite talent on a team-friendly rookie contract. How does this help Wall?

This seems like the Rockets are the only beneficiary.

Let’s head to Philadelphia, where the 76ers are engaged in a standoff with their star point guard Ben Simmons.

Sixers president Daryl Morey tried to trade Simmons last season for Harden and since then the relationship between Simmons and the team has only gotten worse.

Following the team’s Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs last season, head coach Doc Rivers and star teammate Joel Embiid had less than nice things to say about Simmons’ performance. Which, to be fair, was poor.

Simmons made it clear this past offseason that he wanted out, believing the situation was beyond repair. With four years and roughly $146M remaining on his deal, that seemed like an insane request. Why would the Sixers move a young player with that much time and money left on his deal?

Morey tried to trade Simmons for James Harden earlier that season. Why couldn’t Simmons request to be moved?

Since Simmons made his trade request he’s been fined repeatedly by the Sixers for skipping parts of training camp and team activities. Upon finally reporting to camp Simmons told the team he was not mentally ready to begin the season.

Another back-and-forth ensued over whether Simmons should use the team’s mental health professionals as opposed to the ones provided by the player’s association.

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So there we have it.

The Rockets are choosing not playing a healthy player because it’s not in their best interests to do so and that doesn’t seem to be a problem for the NBA.

Ben Simmons is choosing not to play because he doesn’t feel it’s in his best interest, and that is a problem for the NBA.

Take a look at the media coverage around both scenarios. Look at this very website. We’ve devoted countless posts to Simmons not playing. How many about the Rockets shelving a healthy player?

Klutch Sports CEO and NBA agent Rich Paul, who reps both Simmons and Wall, made reference to Wall’s situation in contrast to how the Sixers are handling Simmons in a conversation with The Athletic.

“John is able to play, but Houston is OK using the (Collective Bargaining Agreement) to pay him not to play,” Paul said. “So which way is it? John is perfectly healthy and ready to play, and it’s OK in the CBA. We are being professional with both instances, but how can it go both ways? John and the Rockets have been professional about their situation, and we are also expecting the same with the 76ers.”

The Rockets are willfully tanking and not playing a better player because it suits them and the league is OK with this. It’s seen by media folks as smart and shrewd business.

Never mind the fact that the Rockets have been unable to find a trade partner, that’s why the commentary from Wojnarowski came out. The team would love to get out of paying Wall the rest of the money owed to him by forcing him to take a buyout. But why should he? This was general manager Rafael Stone’s idea. It’s his responsibility to figure it out. That’s what he gets paid for.

Simmons isn’t ready to play and is doing what’s best for him. The Sixers can go after his pockets, force him to see their mental health experts, and leak stories to the media that negatively impact him.

What are we doing here?

The reality is, when teams make decisions the league and the public by and large accept them. It’s management and ownership, they get to do what is in their best interest.

However, when a player wants to do what is in his best interest it isn’t viewed in the same light.

This is the player empowerment era. In a business like the NBA, billionaire owners matter but the multimillionaire players are the product.

Theur play is what secures a multi-billion dollar television rights deal, that’s who fans pay money to see, their activity is what drives the conversation on social media.

Yes, they are labor in this equation. But they matter.