- Ben Simmons said it felt like the 76ers were “trying to fuck with” him after his trade request and through mental health struggles.
- Simmons blamed Doc Rivers for forcing him to practice and said he was fined by the team for not working out.
- Simmons said he was trying to mentally prepare to take the court and didn’t feel supported by the team.
Ben Simmons felt that the Philadelphia 76ers didn’t handle his trade request and mental health struggles the right way last season.
Speaking with JJ Redick on “The Old Man and the Three” podcast, in what are Simmons’ most extended public comments in months, the now-Brooklyn Nets forward said he told the 76ers that he wasn’t mentally ready to play.
However, according to Simmons, it felt like everyone was “just trying to fuck with me.”
“I was, for myself personally, trying to get to a good place to get back on the floor,” Simmons told Redick. “Getting on the floor was my priority and trying to get myself to a place where I was mentally good to do that — I was in such a bad place, where I was like, fuck, like, I’m trying to get here and you guys are throwing all these other things at me to where you’re not helping.”
Last September, Simmons requested a trade from the 76ers and told the team he wouldn’t report to training camp. Simmons had been coming off of a poor playoff performance, which he told Redick was the result of mental health struggles he had been experiencing during that season.
After a training camp holdout that saw him get fined, Simmons did eventually report, but more drama followed. Head coach Doc Rivers kicked Simmons out of a practice for being a distraction. Multiple reports said Simmons was disengaged during practices.
Simmons told Redick that he had tried to tell Rivers he wasn’t ready to play, but the coach didn’t listen.
“Getting kicked out of practice that day, I actually spoke to Doc before practice, I was like, ‘Doc, I’m not ready. Mentally, I’m not ready. Please just understand that.’ I tried to let him know prior,” Simmons said. “And he was like, ‘Well, I’m gonna put you in anyway.’ I’m like, alright.
“He told me to get in, I looked at him — it was like one minute into practice, like, ‘Ben, get in!’ I’m like, first of all, no one’s doing that, you’re doing this on purpose. And that’s how I felt, too — it seemed like everyone’s just trying to fuck with me now. I’m getting fined for not lifting weights, but physically, I’m one of the strongest fucking guys on the team. So now they’re fining me for little things. It was just a build-up of — obviously, I didn’t handle things the right way. But also the team didn’t either.”
It had been reported that Simmons was hurt by critical comments Rivers and star center Joel Embiid made about his play after the 76ers were eliminated by the Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs. Redick said it was “indisputable” that Rivers and Embiid threw Simmons under the bus, to which Simmons said, “For sure.”
He added: “All I wanted was help. I didn’t feel like I got it from coaches, teammates — I won’t say all teammates, because there’s great guys on that team that did reach out that are still my friends — but I didn’t feel like I got that.”
Though Simmons told Redick that he didn’t care about the fines and salary the Sixers withheld from him, he did file a grievance against the team for $20 million. The two sides agreed to a settlement for an undisclosed amount in August.
After not suiting up for the 76ers at all last season, Simmons was ultimately traded to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for James Harden in February.
During his “ramp-up” period to return to the court, Simmons hurt his back and was unable to play. During the playoffs, with the Nets facing elimination in the first round, Simmons also cited further mental health struggles that prevented him from taking the court for Brooklyn.
Speaking to Redick, Simmons said his back is now healed and that he feels mentally fresher.
Simmons also said he wouldn’t have changed how he handled his falling-out with the Sixers.
“If I didn’t go through what I’ve gone through last year and a half, then I wouldn’t be where I’m at now,” he said. “I think I needed to go through all that and have those experiences to be where I’m at now.”