It's not a red flag that Ben Simmons won't work out for the Sixers


A week ago, Charles Barkley prattled on about Ben Simmons and questioned whether the kid loves basketball because he doesn’t want to play for Australia in the Olympics. As shade goes, it was silly – though it wasn’t nearly as mindless as this “red flag” business about Simmons not working out for the Sixers.

He won’t work out. Why won’t he work out? Shouldn’t he work out? He should work out.

That’s roughly the line of questioning Bryan Colangelo faced earlier this week when a handful of reporters got all worked up about Simmons not working out for the Sixers. I’m paraphrasing. I wasn’t there. I watched the footage from our CSN feed that day and then had to restrain myself from Hulk smashing my company-issued computer when one guy (OK, it was Howard Eskin – it’s always Howard Eskin) kept blathering about how the whole thing was a “red flag.” That, in turn, forced Colangelo to address the red flag nonsense.

“It’s not a red flag,” Colangelo said. “Everybody deals with the draft process differently. Sometimes agents are involved, sometimes families are involved in those decisions.”

Of course, what Eskin and Angelo Cataldi and the other red flag truthers failed to note is that Simmons isn’t working out for the Lakers either – or anyone else for that matter. He is the presumptive top pick in next week’s draft. At worst, he’ll fall to second overall and end up in Los Angeles. That’s it. Those are his scenarios. He has very little, if anything, to gain by working out. Maybe he’d placate a bunch of overheated professional talkers, but that would only be for a moment, because overheated professional talkers always find something to get overheated and talk about. I write that with love as a periodically semi-heated professional talker.

This is not a big deal. Or at least it shouldn’t be. These workouts tend to be highly choreographed affairs. The Sixers didn’t learn anything about Brandon Ingram that they didn't already know about him simply because he came in earlier this week and shot around in their gym. There’s already a ton of tape and other information out there on anyone the Sixers might select – with the first pick or the 24th or 26th.

This happens. Players regularly decide not to work out for certain teams. And teams regularly take players that haven’t worked out for them prior to the draft. The Sixers didn’t work out Nerlens Noel (he was injured). They didn’t work out Joel Embiid (ditto). I honestly couldn’t remember if they worked out Jahlil Okafor last year so I asked another reporter friend of mine. I also asked someone who actually works for the Sixers. Neither of them could remember either. Scene deleted. Those workouts are so important that we immediately purged any memories of them.

Beyond that, the Sixers are working to get Simmons' medical information, which is actually useful stuff – unlike asking him to go through half-speed drills in a mostly-empty PCOM gym. And if there’s any consternation among the red flag flock that Simmons doesn’t want to play for Philly, there shouldn’t be. As Colangelo noted, Simmons already said he wants to be the first player taken.

“It has nothing to do with us, it has nothing to do with Philadelphia,” Colangelo said. “The bottom line is, as I said, everybody goes about it a little differently. Sometimes players decide to work out, sometimes they don’t decide to work out.”

Indeed. You’ll remember that Kristaps Porzingis famously refused to meet with the Sixers last season, which got spun into a narrative about how agents and players hated Sam Hinkie. Interesting how no one is blaming Colangelo for Simmons not wanting to work out for them. And before you employ a lazy Twitter rejoinder about how it’s not the same thing because Simmons isn’t working out for anyone, keep in mind that no one is indicting Danny Ainge because Kris Dunn indicated he doesn’t want to play for the Celtics. These are nothing stories seized upon by a fringe element desperate for something to discuss in advance of the draft.

A year ago, I wanted the Sixers to take Kristaps Porzingis – but it wasn’t because he looked good against doughy middle-aged coaches in yet another orchestrated workout. This year, if the reports and whispers are right, it looks like they’ll select Simmons. If they don’t, it won’t be because he passed on their invitation.

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