Things were so different for the Philadelphia 76ers just one year ago. With training camp heating up, the world looked to see if Ben Simmons would return to the Sixers after demanding a trade over the summer.
And while Simmons held out of training camp, he eventually returned to the team for practices a few weeks later. But after an apathetic showing, head coach Doc Rivers dismissed Simmons from the team, calling him a “distraction.” Shortly after, footage of Simmons refusing to sub into team drills went viral, further eroding the relationship between team and player. Simmons’ dismissal was followed up by team-issued fines and salary withholding, for which Simmons later filed a grievance over.
But now, a year later Simmons wants to set the record straight. He appeared on JJ Redick’s podcast Old Man and the Three to discuss his time in Philadelphia and future with Brooklyn. And Simmons was candid about that ill-fated practice, sparing no punches in the process.
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.’
Later on in the interview, Simmons went on an expletive-laden rant about how he was treated by the Sixers.
Simmons: ‘Everyone’s Just Trying to F*** With Me’
Simmons continued explaining to Redick what exactly went down at the practice. From Simmons’ perspective, he was being treated differently by the head coach over refusing to play and requesting a trade.
“[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.
By the time of that practice, Simmons’ relationship with the Sixers was likely fractured beyond repair. The former Rookie of the Year went dark on the front office, requested a trade, and refused the help of team doctors when he explained his mental wellbeing.
And while it seems like Simmons is defiant in his actions, he also told Redick that he knows he could have done better in the situation.
Simmons: ‘I Didn’t Handle Things the Right Way’
Simmons did tell Redick that he has a little more clarity looking back. But he refused to take all of the blame for how his tenure in Philadelphia ended.
“Obviously I didn’t handle things the right way,” Simmons said, “but the team didn’t either.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by several other analysts since Simmons final game in Philadelphia against the Hawks in 2021. And with hindsight being 20/20, perhaps both the Sixers and Simmons can take a few learning lessons away from the situation.
Regardless, it’s hard to see how Simmons ended up in a worse situation. He’s playing with former NBA champs in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in Brooklyn. The trio could form a strong Big Three this season in a loaded Eastern Conference.