The last time we saw all-star point guard Ben Simmons in a 76ers uniform (let alone in an NBA game) was Game 7 against the Atlanta Hawks in June of 2021. Who would have thought that one pass to Matisse Thybulle would have led to Simmons sitting out of training ccam, demanding a trade, fines, and his eventual departure to the Brooklyn Nets in a swamp that included James Harden. So much for “trusting the process.”
Now, 15 months later, as we head into a new NBA season, Simmons felt it was time to speak about his thought process during that period on JJ Redick’s podcast, “The Old Man and the Three.” Simmons had to address the pass itself, which came down to what he describes as a quick reaction.
“I’m thinking, OK, quick pass, he’s going to flush it, not knowing much space there was,” Simmons said. “It happened so quick that you just make a read. And in the playoffs you need to make the right decisions the majority of the time. And for that moment, I mean, bro, it happened and I was like, OK, f—-, now we gotta go make another play. That’s how I’m thinking. I didn’t realize how everyone’s posting. I’m like, it was that big?”
Was it fair to bash Simmons off one play? (I wish he took the dunk, too). He didn’t think so because the Sixers had more chances to win that game after. However, coach Doc Rivers and ex-teammate Joel Embiid were critical of him in post-game interviews. That then snowballed into Simmons being away from the team the entire summer. The guard then said he felt like 76ers coaches and teammates didn’t support him through his mental health struggles after the backlash from “the pass.”
“I didn’t feel like I got it from coaches, teammates—I won’t say all teammates, because there are great guys on that team that did reach out and are still my friends—but I didn’t feel like I got that, and it was just a tough place for me.”
Simmons showed up to the 76ers training camp last October, where he says the mental sharpness wasn’t there. Rivers kicked him out of practice for being a “distraction” and not subbing in during drills a week after. Simmons went on and said he spoke to Doc personally about his mental struggles.
“I actually spoke to Doc before practice. I was like, ‘Doc, I’m not ready. Mentally, I’m not ready. Please just understand that,’” Simmons said on the podcast. “I tried to let him know prior, and he was like, ‘Well, I’m going to put you in anyway.’ I’m like, ‘All right.’ He told me to get in. I looked at him. It was like one minute into practice, like, ‘Ben, get in.’
“I’m like, first of all, no one’s doing that. You’re doing this on purpose. And that’s how I felt, too. It seems like everyone’s trying to f—- with me now. I’m getting fined for not lifting weights, but physically I’m one of the strongest guys on the f—-ing team. So now they’re fining me for little things. It was just a buildup. Obviously, I didn’t handle things the right way, but, also, the team didn’t either, and the people who had that power. “
Simmons has given his side of why things didn’t work out, but I doubt we’ll hear anything from the 76ers. While the Nets have had a rollercoaster off-season, Simmons claims he feels excellent. So, I’m going to need you to mark down Oct. 3rd on your calendar becauset hat’s when the Nets and the Sixers will play each other at Barclays Center. Barring any setbacks (or exiting group chats and trade requests), we finally get these teams to play each other at full strength.