Back in January when Simmons was a reluctant Sixer vowing to never again play for that team, a Heavy.com story cited Philadelphia sources painting a picture of an enabled pseudo-star, noting the club should be fine with his trade request.
While there were rumors of deals, and teams were investigating Simmons and possible moves, league execs questioned his value vis-a-vis his game and contract.
The eventual Simmons-James Harden trade was supposed to fit both the Sixers and Brooklyn, but Simmons has yet to don a Nets uniform — and won’t in Game 4 after the club announced three days prior that his back had improved and he would return after sitting out one more night, the critical Game 3 with Brooklyn already in a 2-0 hole.
“No one’s surprised,” a source said of the Sixers. “I think people were more surprised that they announced he was going to play on Monday than they were that he’s not.
“So like two more days were going to make a difference? I don’t get it. I do not get it. If you’re going to play on Monday, then why don’t you play on Saturday?”
Simmons’ Mental Health Issues Draw Scrutiny
Simmons has told both the Sixers and Nets that, in addition to his back problem, he is dealing with mental health issues — a matter that, in general, is being taken more sensitively in society.
But beyond the anxiety that has manifested itself in his game (passing the ball rather than going up for a layup or dunk and risking a trip to the free throw line where he was 15-for-45 in that playoff series against the Hawks last year), two sources who’ve been involved with the 6-foot-11 three-time All-Star cast doubt on his claim.
“To me, that’s the only untouchable excuse that they could have to get his money back,” said one source. “Like, nobody’s going to question that. That’s the only response to his issues that nobody will walk all over.”
In the January story here, someone close to the situation wondered whether there was a coach who could get through to Simmons, noting that he had problems with Doc Rivers last season and prior with Brett Brown, who was a friend of the Simmons family in Australia before Ben’s birth.
“If he wouldn’t do it for Brett, who’s known him since he was born …” the source told Heavy. “Like, if you’re not wired to accommodate family and family friends, then what the f***?
“He’s been enabled his entire life. He’s very aloof. He’s a great player, but it’s all the extra stuff that no one’s held him accountable for that’s just made it difficult. He’s just been left to his own devices to do what the f*** he wants to do.”
A longtime NBA scout was quoted in the story thusly: “The best thing that could have happened was that they kept Jimmy Butler, and Jimmy Butler just [long-expletived] him every day until he got better. Or not.”
A Star Who Won’t Acknowledge Flaws
The piece spoke to an involved source who was among those questioning Simmons’ work ethic, in particular his seeming unwillingness to properly address his main weaknesses — outside shot and free throws.
“The thing about him is he can’t handle missing,” he said. “It really came up obviously in his free throws in the last playoffs. But, like, he’d rather not shoot than miss.
“It doesn’t matter if he ever takes another jump shot. But he’s got to make free throws — and he just doesn’t spend the time. The first few years, he was always the last guy in and the first guy out.”
Said a league exec, “I think pretty much every team has heard that. A lot of guys don’t like to go in a gym and do what they don’t do well. You like to show everybody what you do well. That’s human nature.
“But great players want to improve. They NEED to improve. That’s in them.”
On Monday, one NBA source who’s dealt with the situation expressed frustration.
“When’s he going to play then, next year? Is he going to play in summer league? When’s he going to play? He’s got to play,” he said. “Nobody wants to admit it, but it’s only getting worse. He hasn’t put a uniform on.”