In the end, The Sixers and the Brooklyn Nets struck a huge deal on Deadline. Philadelphia Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond sent a draft compensation to the Nets in exchange for James Harden and Paul Millsap.
While the trade officially ended the Simmons saga, there were still many unanswered questions. Simmons participated in an introductory press conference with the media in Brooklyn days after the trade collapse. However, he didn’t get too deep while addressing certain situations that led to his split from the 76ers.
More than a year after asking for a deal from the Sixers, Simmons sat down with ex-Philly shooter JJ Redick to discuss the dramatic season turmoil that eventually led to parting ways with the 76ers on’The old man and three podcasts“.
Throughout the 2021-2022 NBA season, Simmons has made it clear on numerous occasions that working on his mindset has been an uphill battle and a work in progress.
By the time he reached the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs, Simmons admitted that his mental health was at an all-time low. At the time, Simmons felt he lacked the support around him as criticism of his struggles in that series increased.
“I’m really dealing with a lot of mental issues in life,” said the three-time All-Star. “I got to a point where I got after that streak; it’s like I was one of those people you were supposed to get support from or that relief from because I didn’t get that either. It affected me – mentally – it killed me. I had no energy for anything, and I was in a dark place.”
Simmons began working with mental health professionals during the 2021 off season to address the issues he had been battling throughout his final year at Philly.
“The first thing for me was to define like, OK, I have to get it right, and it’s not a physical thing — it’s my brain,” he explained. “I think the first thing to admit was a huge step for me. I need to address this. I need help in these areas. Being able to do this, that was the beginning of getting to where I am now. I’m in a great place, and I’m comfortable.” To talk about it now.”
Unsuccessful attempt to return
Sixers’ Simmons was expected to hold out when he started training camp last year. When it became clear that a possibility was on the horizon, a rumor surfaced about the Sixers player’s plans to travel to Los Angeles, where Simmons spent most of his time during the break. According to Shams Al Shaaraniyah the athlete, several roster members were preparing to visit Simmons to get him to return the purchase to the organization after asking for a deal. Per Charania, Simmons banished these men.
“A lot of things have happened, and people really don’t realize that’s not the truth,” Simmons said, regarding reports of his teammates willing to fly in to see him. “You guys are going to fly, now are you going when training camp is about to start? I’ve been in LA for several months. No one came. No one was there. You could have come, but now you want to announce that you’ve been flying abroad? That’s bulls.” ***. Nobody was on that plane. Like, ‘Come on, man.’ This is the fictitious truth. There were men in Los Angeles who didn’t say anything to me. But I don’t care. There were a lot of things being put out that shouldn’t be put out. To be put out. These people know who they are.”
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As expected, Simmons missed Media Day when it started in late September 2021. He was also not present at training for the first week. After missing several training sessions and multiple pre-season games, Simmons shocked the basketball world when he finally came to work.
While there has been speculation that Simmons had an ulterior motive on his return – the star keeper claims he was trying to do the right thing by making a comeback. Unfortunately, his presence was more of a distraction than his absence.
“I was trying to do the right thing,” Simmons said. “Do a good job by the team, my teammates and whoever it is. I try to do the right thing, but I wasn’t in this place to play. I wasn’t – I couldn’t do it.”
A few days after his return, Simmons was ready to speak to the media for the first time since Game Seven against the Atlanta Hawks. Before reporters could get into the gym for a post-workout briefing, Simmons was fired from training for being a distraction, according to Sixers head coach Doc Rivers.
“He was a distraction today,” Rivers said in October 2021. “I didn’t think he wanted to do what the others are doing. It’s early. It wasn’t a big deal. I just told him he had to leave then, and we kept training.”
Rivers hasn’t provided much insight into the situation, nor have his former Simmons teammates. When Simmons finally told his side of the story this week, Brooklyn Net felt he was singled out even after he claimed he wasn’t mentally prepared to help contribute to practice.
“I spoke to Doc,” he explained. “I was like, ‘Doctor, I’m not ready, mentally I’m not ready, please understand. I tried to tell him beforehand. He said, “Okay, I’m going to put you in any way.” He told me to get in. It was like a minute of practice, he was like, “Ben gets in.” First of all, nobody does that. You do this about I mean. That’s how I felt too. It looks like everyone is trying with me now. I was fined for not lifting weights, but physically I’m one of the strongest players on the team. They were fining me for small things. I obviously didn’t handle things the right way, but the team did. That too.”
There was doubt about Simmons’ willingness to actually return to playing for the 76ers. While many rumors speculated that Simmons was willing to do anything that didn’t suit the Sixers again, the star goalkeeper claimed that he really tried to bring his mind back to Earth.
“Getting land was my priority, and trying to get myself to a place where I’d be mentally good to do it,” Simmons explained. “I was in such a bad place where I was like, ‘I’m trying to get here, and you guys are throwing all this other stuff at me where you’re not helping. And that’s all I wanted was help. I didn’t feel like I got it from my coaches or my teammates.'” I’m not going to say all my teammates because I’ve had great guys on this team who connect with them and they’re still my friends, but I didn’t feel like I got that. It was a tough place for me.”
Simmons was never out on the ground for the 76ers during the 2021-2022 season. Despite being a member of the organization for more than half of the season, Simmons only participated in practice sessions. Although Daryl Morey and the Sixers front desk were willing to keep Simmons around for as long as they needed to before finding an ideal trading scenario, that idea was no longer necessary when the Nets were ready to strike a deal.
Now, Simmons feels he’s in a great place and excited for the next step in his career as he’s set to make his Brooklyn debut next month. With Simmons finally telling his side of the story, the book about the Simmons saga should officially close.
Justin Grasso covers Philadelphia 76ers for the All76ers, Sports Illustrated’s channel. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: MustafaHosny Oh God, Amen.