Ben Simmons showed up to work, dressed in vibrant suits and sunglasses, taking his place on the bench and silently observing the Nets from afar. As one of the highest-paid Point Forwards in the NBA, Simmons has one of the best desk jobs in the league. While his absence due to injury once made him a figure of scorn, it’s time for him to turn the tide in the court of public opinion. This may be frustrating for fans, but for the everyday pros who work tirelessly on the court, Simmons may never have lived up to the platonic ideal.
Simmons‘ return to the Nets coincides with the NBA’s 65-game rule being exposed as harmful to players and the league’s load management policy. This policy, intended to protect the NBA’s product, has had unintended consequences. For example, Tyrese Haliburton, despite being an All-Star starter and leading the Indiana Pacers, may be ineligible for All-NBA teams if he misses more than three games, potentially costing him $40 million.
Concerns that the NBA’s attendance policy may negatively impact the earning potential of its top stars have been confirmed. And it’s more than just an annoying formality. It’s another way to limit player revenue for arbitrary reasons. This 65-game rule’s cascade effect is forcing injured players to make tough decisions. Joel Embiid recently returned from injury and faced backlash for missing games.
Simmons‘ fight with the 76ers over the salary owed to him from his injury-riddled 2021-22 season should shine a light on him. During this season, his mental health was questioned, and he continued to be the subject of ridicule. Even after being traded to the Brooklyn Nets, Simmons‘ back problems persisted.
However, despite all this, Simmons returned to action this week, showcasing a near-triple-double in just 18 minutes. This revived his trade value. He may never fulfill his high potential as a former number one pick, but he’s a symbol of the physical sacrifices demanded of NBA players. This is why they should fight against the NBA’s anti-load management rule.
The biggest realization from Simmons‘ saga is that questioning player injuries is foolish. Yet the current 65-game rule has significant flaws. There should be a middle ground for people like Joe Dumars and Simmons. If anyone should be a champion for the best professional basketball players off the court, it’s Simmons. He is likely to be one of the top candidates in the next NBPA elections.
There is even a study that found data disproving the effectiveness of load management in injury prevention, which further complicates the issue. Players should prioritize preserving their careers, and not just ensuring their health in the 75th game of an annual marathon of 82 to 100 games (including playoffs). This is a battle that players can fight with determination, similar to their fight against the Sixers. It’s time for the NBA to reconsider how it addresses long-term player health.