Around the Association: Ben Simmons Drama, So Much Front Office Chaos, Vaccination Efforts, More

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Around the Association: Ben Simmons Drama, So Much Front Office Chaos, Vaccination Efforts, More

Chicago Bulls

With training camp set to start next week, things have been quiet on the Bulls front (#ThankGoodness).

Many other teams, however, can’t say the same (#HA).

While we have some time, let’s take a look at some of the biggest stories around the association this week.

Ben Simmons Saga Continues

When the Philadelphia 76ers walked off their home court on June 20th after a Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference semifinals, it felt like Ben Simmons’ fate was already decided. The 25-year-old had posted a mind-boggling playoff performance, shooting 34.2 percent from the free throw line and scoring just 13 total points in the 4th quarter of the semifinal series against Atlanta. In short, everything about his playoff run was a disaster, and things only got worse when head coach Doc Rivers and superstar player Joel Embiid questioned Simmons’ abilities and decision-making publicly after the game.

As the offseason got underway, it was assumed the 76ers would quickly look to find a new stomping ground for their former No. 1-overall pick. However, that was going to be a lot easier said than done with roughly $146.7 million over the next five seasons still tied to Simmons’ chest. Then, when we factor in that the 76ers front office reportedly had a ridiculously high asking price, it’s not surprising this situation has inched so close to training camp.

Speaking of which, Simmons has reportedly made it clear that he will not attend training camp next week. The top-tier defender has told the organization he does not want to play in Philly again, but that has not stopped them from trying to make him reconsider.

Rivers appeared on ESPN’s First Take this week to talk about the drama. It was here that he made an awkward plea for Simmons to return to the team. He also emphasized that he does believe this team can win with Simmons as a pivotal piece despite his previous comments.

I’m not sure how long this problem will continue (Simmons not showing up will increasingly cost him financially), but I do feel confident that the Chicago Bulls will not find themselves involved. Even though analysts and talking heads have tried to pitch Simmons for Zach LaVine swaps all throughout the offseason, the chance of that happening feels damn near zero percent. Not only was the Bulls front office activity this summer an indirect investment in LaVine, but they added all these pieces with him specifically in mind.

So … yeah … stop trying to make fetch LaVine-Simmons trades happen. 

Front Office Chaos

Problems in the executive suite? Been there, done that.

Several teams around the league are currently experiencing front office turmoil, with the Minnesota Timberwolves being the most recent. On Wednesday, ownership shockingly fired president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, who had been at the helm of the organization since only May of 2019. While the team was one of the worst in the league last season, they still seemed to be on a slightly more positive trajectory with players like Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Malik Beasley in the mix.

However, The Athletic gave us a closer look into what was going on behind the scenes under Rosas’ watch, and let’s just say … things were messy.

“Rosas’ reign was described as dysfunctional, with tension rippling through the front office, according to some sources.,” The Athletic shared. “Outside of it, rival team executives and agents would complain about how Rosas treated relationships and negotiations. The complaints reached as high as the ownership level over the last several weeks, lending a perception of inevitability to the end of Rosas’ tenure.”

The Athletic’s report also went on to mention an extramarital affair between Rosas and a female Timberwolves staffer. According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, when this news began to spread throughout the organization this week, it acted as the straw on the camel’s back.

Yeah, I know, it’s all crazy.

More Front Office Chaos

Head down south, and the New Orleans Pelicans are having their own weird problems with front office leader David Griffin.

According to Christian Clark of NOLA dot com, Griffin has had a remarkably tough time connecting with members of the organization. The new culture he tried to instill when taking over the franchise in 2019 has fallen flat, as the team has failed to make a legitimate playoff push and find a real answer at head coach.

Clark shared that Griffin’s perception behind closed doors grew so negative that employees started to call him by another name …

That Griffin sometimes contradicted his own sunny vision caused a segment of team employees to actively dislike him. When “The Last Dance” documentary aired in April 2020, some staffers began referring to Griffin as “Griff Krause” in a group text. It was a reference to Jerry Krause, the NBA executive who dismantled the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls after they’d won a third straight championship.

Hey, at least that guy won championships!

The opinion of Griffin also does not appear to be any better in the locker room. Clark reports the vice president of basketball operations has struggled to connect with franchise cornerstone Zion Williamson. And, ya know what, I can’t seem to understand why that would be!

Williamson’s relationship with Griffin had also begun to sour. Although they communicate infrequently now, Griffin tried hard in Williamson’s rookie year to forge a bond. One example: During the Pelicans’ bubble stay, Griffin asked to meet with Williamson and played the piano for him.

Never mind!

Anyway, the whole report makes you wonder (1) how much longer Griffin will last in NO and (2) whether or not Williamson will put up for this long-term. Give it a read below.

In case you forgot, the Dallas Mavericks also had their own front office question marks earlier this offseason. Owner Mark Cuban and long-time GM Donnie Nelson decided to part ways in the wake of reports that former pro-gambler and direction of quantitive research and development Haralabos Voulgaris had too much power. Reports also suggested that superstar Luka Doncic was not a fan of Voulgaris. Now, according to The Dallas Morning News, the man who caused all this drama has decided to leave the team.

Some Good Old Fashioned Tampering

Joe Lacob, owners of the Golden State Warriors, was recently asked about what a Ben Simmons addition could do for the organization. And he was a little too talkative.

The man told the San Francisco Chronicle that he did not see the fit for Simmons with the current roster, and he also mentioned that the money would make things difficult. The NBA quickly clapped back at Lacob with a tampering fine of $50,000. I’m sure that is money Lacob has in his wallet on any given day, but it still served as a (silly) reminder around the league to keep your mouth shut.

Speaking of fines … can Adam Silver give us an update on that Lonzo Ball tampering investigation?

Odds and Ends

•   The NBA has decided not to require players to get vaccinated before this season, but that does not mean it isn’t STRONGLY encouraged. Restrictions for vaccinated players are practically non-existed, whereas those who as unvaccinated will basically be living under very similar protocols to last season. Not to mention, unvaccinated players also run the risk of not being able to play due to local restrictions. The Warriors Andrew Wiggins is apparently someone who could find himself in this situation, per the San Francisco Chronicle, as the city of San Francisco requires proof of vaccination to be allowed indoors for sporting events. Something to keep an eye on.

•   Relatedly:

•   The NBPA has a new leader!

•   “But if they don’t win me a ring, I’m booking them a flight out of here.”

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.