Ben Simmons feels like the Sixers are trying to force his return to the court no matter how he feels mentally, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Simmons met with the team’s therapist for the first time on Monday, after the team resumed fining him last week. He was previously unwilling to discuss his mental health with any team doctors.
Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul, says the team’s actions have worsened his client’s mental health.
“I truly believe the fines, the targeting, the negative publicity shined on the issue — that’s very unnecessary and has furthered the mental health issues for Ben,” Paul said. “Either you help Ben, or come out and say he’s lying. Which one is it?”
A Sixers official told Charania that the team was “absolutely not” trying to force Simmons to play, nor are they claiming that he’s lying. The team’s stance is that Simmons should participate in all Sixers activities unless the team’s therapist or Simmons’ personal specialists report that he is incapable of playing or practicing.
The official emphasized that, as of this evening, the Sixers had not been presented with information that would prevent Simmons from fully participating with the team.
Charania relays that the Sixers sent Simmons a schedule Thursday that included tonight’s game against the Raptors, which the Sixers lost 115-109. Simmons did not play in the game. The team has fined him each time this has occurred previously, so another fine could be imminent.
Paul says Simmons is open to playing for the Sixers again, but he’s not mentally ready to return to the court yet.
“In this case, we have to get Ben help and not put finances above mental health,” Paul said. “As an agent, I understand contractual obligations and I hold myself accountable in this business. But if someone is telling you something, we can no longer turn a blind eye in today’s world.
“This is no longer about a trade. This is about finding a place where we can help Ben get back to his mental strength and get back on the floor. I want him on the floor playing the game that he loves. I want Ben on the floor whether that’s in a 76ers uniform or any other uniform, that’s not up to me, but I want him in a state where he can resume play. We want to cooperate and want to work him back on the floor.”
Team officials say they’re happy to hear that Simmons is open to playing for the Sixers again, per Charania. They welcome his return to the lineup. They also insist that they’ve shown good faith through the entire process, including offering any assistance Simmons has needed.
Simmons will continue meeting with the team’s therapist and has given permission for the therapist to confidentially discuss his treatment with Simmons’ own personal specialists.
Paul says he holds no hard feelings with Sixers ownership, management, or the city of Philadelphia, he just wants what’s best for his client.
“I don’t think the 76ers are a bad organization. Josh Harris and David Blitzer are great governors, they’ve done a great job with the organization. I have respect for (president of basketball operations) Daryl Morey,” Paul said. “Ben has a mental issue, let’s support him. I’m happy he got to a place where he realized and accepted help. I understand it’s a business, but even in business, you need humanity.
“I have a great level of respect and love for the city of Philadelphia, as someone who loves the game, but this isn’t about that. This is about Ben getting back to a place mentally where he can be back on the floor — and only Ben can tell us when that is. We have to allow him to do that.”