Two seasons ago, the Philadelphia 76ers‘ playoff push came to a crashing halt against the Atlanta Hawks. And while basketball is indeed a team sport, much of the blame was placed on one source: Ben Simmons.
In the crucial closing minutes of Game Seven, Simmons spun around Bogdan Bogdanovic into the paint and landed underneath the hoop. But rather than use his 6’11 frame to dunk the ball over incoming defender Trae Young, he passed.
It was a pass that would forever live in infamy.
Simmons passed to Matisse Thybulle who was quickly doubled, attempted to dunk himself, and was then fouled. After converting on only one of the two free throws, the Hawks proceeded on a 5-0 run over the next minute to seal the game.
The following offseason, Simmons requested out of Philadelphia, unhappy with his treatment by the staff, fellow players, and media. And last week, Simmons sat down with former Sixers teammate JJ Redick to discuss how his time in Philadelphia ended, citing his mental well-being as a key motivation to sit out during training camp and the season.
After the interview was posted, NBA vet Austin Rivers took to Instagram to question the accuracy of some of Simmons’ allegations.
Rivers: You ‘Actually Believe This?’
One of the key moments in Redick’s interview with Simmons came while the two were discussing Simmons’ decision to return to Sixers’ practices in October. At the time of his return, Simmons told Sixers head coach Doc Rivers that he wasn’t “ready mentally” to handle time on the court.
Redick: Why did you come back for two days of practice?
Simmons: Um, because I was trying to do the right thing. I was trying to do the right thing. And I just was not in that place to play. Like I wasn’t. Like I couldn’t do it. You know, getting kicked out of practice that day, I actually spoke to Doc [Rivers] before practice. I was like ‘Doc I’m not ready, mentally I’m not ready. Just please understand that.’ And he’s like ‘well I’m gonna put you in anyway.’
By the sound of it, Simmons was throwing Rivers under the bus for his handling of the entire situation. Rivers’ son, Austin, took to Instagram to question whether Simmons’ narrative was accurate.
“bro do u actually believe this dude?😂 If y’all only knew…,” Rivers commented underneath a clip of the interview.
Surely there is more to the story than just Simmons’ side. But likewise, there’s probably more going on than simply the Rivers’ family side, as well. In fact, Simmons opened up a bit more about his feelings towards that practice after shading Rivers.
Simmons: ‘Everyone’s Just Trying to F*** With Me’
After Simmons explained his situation to Rivers, the two men headed down to the Sixers’ practice together. And that, according to Simmons, is where things really started to spiral.
“[At practice, Rivers] told me to get in, I looked at him. It was like two–one, minute into practice like ‘Ben get in.’ And I’m like, first of all, no one’s doing that. You’re doing this on purpose. And that’s how I felt. I was like ‘okay, so you’re–it seems like everyone’s just trying to f*** with me now. Like I’m getting fined for not lifting weights, but physically I’m one of the strongest guys on the f****** team. So now I’m like they’re fining me for little things,” Simmons explained.
If Simmons arrived at that practice looking to make amends for the burned bridge between himself and the organization, it failed. The relationship after that incident was damaged beyond repair.
Ultimately, both Simmons and the Sixers deserve some blame for how everything went down. But both sides landed in a better place following the breakup, with Simmons now playing with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the Brooklyn Nets. The Sixers, meanwhile, landed a perfect offensive complement to Joel Embiid in James Harden.