The NBA’s worst soap opera just took another unexpected turn. Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons has told the team he’s not “mentally ready to play to his expectations,” per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Whatever that means.
Simmons, who was kicked out of practice, returned to the Sixers’ facility on Friday, October 22 to meet with coaches and teammates. All parties cleared the air and decided to grant Simmons time to work through his issues. He was ruled out of the home opener due to personal reasons.
Sixers trainers cleared the disgruntled point guard for physical activity after he initially cited “back tightness” for needing to sit out. He half-heartedly participated in two team practices before being sent home by head coach Doc Rivers. There is no timetable for a return. And Sixers president Daryl Morey saying he would wait “four years” (no kidding) for a resolution.
“People should buckle in, this is going to go a long time because our only task, my only job is to help us get the best chance to win the title,” Morey said, via NBC Sports. “You’re going to think I’m kidding, I’m not, this could be four years.”
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Teammates React to Simmons’ Visit
Simmons’ teammates are supporting the troubled star (at least publicly) throughout this ordeal. Rivers has gone on record saying he’ll welcome the three-time All-Star back with open arms whenever he’s ready to return.
Tobias Harris offered “we will embrace our brother with love” in a Twitter message. And Tyrese Maxey has maintained how the Sixers are better with Simmons and they want him to be a part of the team.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Joel Embiid asked Simmons directly “why do you want to be traded?” in a face-to-face team meeting. There was no response back, but the team agreed to let Simmons take some time off and clear his mental state. Per Charania:
I’m told that [Embiid’s question] was met with no response back and there were other team leaders such as Tobias Harris who then publicly and privately supported Ben Simmons and let him know that he should take time away and get right mentally. I’m told Simmons will seek professional help to make sure he’s able to get back on track and get back on the floor after he did express to teammates that he wants to play but he has to get right mentally before he is able to do so.
Georges Niang was the lone player made available to the media following shootaround on Friday, October 21 and he wanted to keep their conversations with Simmons private. He called the locker room a “sacred place,” although he expressed optimism things could be rectified.
“I think we left the meeting understanding what he had to say and we came out and got ready for Brooklyn,” Niang told reporters. “If you know me I’m always a positive person so I’m taking the best out of every situation.”
Sixers-Nets Injury Report
Back to basketball, right? The Sixers host the Brooklyn Nets in their season opener at Wells Fargo Center. Simmons (personal reasons) won’t be there. And neither will be backup point guard Shake Milton who is dealing with an ankle sprain.
Embiid (knee soreness) was listed questionable on the injury report, but the All-Star big man is expected to play. Grant Riller (knee) remains out as he recovers from meniscus surgery. Kyrie Irving is out for the Nets.