Ben Simmons might be long gone from the Philadelphia 76ers, but he still lives rent-free in the minds of many Sixers fans. Add Daryl Morey to that bunch, as well.
The Simmons-Sixers marriage came to a crashing end last summer when the former No. 1 pick requested a trade out of Philadelphia. Morey, Philadelphia’s GM, held firm against shipping Simmons for pennies on the dollar.
But over his tenure in Philadelphia, Simmons was often roasted by fans over his lack of interest and perceived entitlement. And it’s true: playing in Philadelphia requires a certain mentality that sets it apart from other cities. And recently, Morey went on the record to describe what it takes to play in the City of Brotherly Love, potentially taking a dig at Simmons in the process.
“And I never understood this, being in Houston when people would say, ‘Oh, you need to have a special mindset to play in Philly. You need to have a special mindset to play in, maybe, New York.’ Although I think that’s less true. Honestly, I can only speak to Philadelphia because I’ve been here now. I do think, I really do pay attention to the mindset of the players. Can they handle playing in Philadelphia? Because I do think it’s a different thing,” Morey said on an episode of The Take Off with John Clark on September 13.
Perhaps Morey learned a thing or two about mentality in the Ben Simmons debacle. But that’s not the only thing Morey had to say about players’ mentality when coming to Philadelphia.
Morey Reveals the ‘Biggest Surprise’ in Philadelphia
Roster construction and team-building are part of the job description for general managers. But the practice, as Morey insinuated, isn’t always science. What looks good on paper — playing a tall defensive ace with playmaking bonafide at point guard — might not work out in reality — like when that point guard refuses to develop a jump shot.
But even harder than that is finding a player that can withstand criticism from the crowds and local press. And that’s a significant hurdle that Morey’s reckoned with.
“I’d say the biggest surprise are the players who can’t play here. It’s actually not helpful to me. The more options I have, the better. But I do think I’m starting to learn and I do love it about Philadelphia, ‘cause I do think it gets the best out of our team. And I’ve seen it with not only our team, the Eagles, and the Phillies,” Morey explained.
But it’s not always just on the player. Sometimes, as one analyst argued, the blame for a player’s failed development lies on both the team and the player.
Jalen Rose Calls Out Sixers’ Development of Ben Simmons
Earlier in the summer, basketball player-turned broadcaster Jalen Rose blasted the Sixers for their use of Ben Simmons in Philadelphia.
“Philadelphia,” explained Rose last week on ESPN’s NBA Today, “made a mistake in developing Ben Simmons as a point guard and here’s why. When you’re not attempting shots outside of the paint, it’s hard to have you at the top of the floor. So now that they have KD (Kevin Durant), he’s going to play quality minutes at the 4.”
It remains to be seen whether Simmons will truly thrive in a different position with the Brooklyn Nets. His skill set is indeed more tailored to a paint-living distributor who also defends well.
But Simmons himself also refused to play a position other than point guard in Philadelphia. What makes Rose think Simmons will suddenly have a change of heart in Brooklyn? Perhaps Simmons fits in well with the ball-dominant Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. But that would also require Simmons to play, which he hasn’t done in over a year.