Brooklyn Nets' Ben Simmons watches practice before an NBA basketball...

Brooklyn Nets' Ben Simmons watches practice before an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Thursday, March 10, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Credit: AP/Matt Slocum

ATLANTA — Ben  Simmons, who was traded to the Nets from the 76ers in the February 10 deal that sent James Harden to Philadelphia, is filing a grievance against his former team for withholding nearly $20 million in salary, according to a report in ESPN, which cited sources.

Simmons hasn’t played since last season's Eastern Conference semifinals, citing mental health issues, and, since the trade, has not played or practiced with the Nets, first due to reconditioning and then because of a herniated disc in his back.

According to the report, the 76ers believe that Simmons was in breach of contract when he refused to play, and the case is set to go to an arbiter, as per the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players association. At that point, it could set a precedent as to how teams deal with mental health issues. Players are still paid if they sustain a physical injury, but this will help determine if psychological concerns are equally protected. The players association is supporting Simmons in his grievance.

76ers general manager Daryl Morey previously said he believed Simmons suffered from mental health concerns. After he was traded, Simmons said he didn't feel, he was getting the help he needed in Philadelphia. He did, however, request a trade after the 2021 season, leading to open speculation about the validity of his ailment.

“I’ve had some dark times over the last six months and I'm just happy to be in this situation with this team and organization,” he said in his introductory news conference nearly two months ago. “People are going to say what they want. They've said it the last six months and I haven't commented, and it is what it is. People are always going to have their own opinions.”

He added that he was in a better place mentally. 

The three-time All Star signed a five-year, $170 million maximum contract in 2019, and was originally owed $33 million this year. According to ESPN, the 76ers withheld $360,000 for every game he missed, and that meant dipping into the $16.5 million advance he was given in the offseason. All that amounts to about $1.3 million withheld per paycheck — something that’s continued even after he was traded to the Nets.

The Nets have given no timeline on Simmons’ return to the court, only that he had an MRI shortly after the trade and has not been able to take part in any intense activity. Steve Nash said previously that he believes Simmons will be ready for the playoffs.

Nash said Saturday that Simmons had progressed to light shooting, but not much else. He traveled with the team to Atlanta — something he only began doing recently.

“He’s on the court a little bit the past couple days, but nothing dynamic,” Nash said. “He’s not even moving around a lot. He’s just doing some light shooting.”

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