The Ben Simmons era for the Philadelphia 76ers is over and with it, an opportunity for the young point guard to flip the page and find a fresh start with the Brooklyn Nets.
The three-time All-Star was one of the headliners in a deal that netted the 76ers superstar guard James Harden — finally getting Simmons off the books and out of town as he continued to sit out this season.
Simmons cited mental-health issues as to why he wouldn’t suit up in Philadelphia after demanding a trade following the 2020-21 season and momentarily returning to the team just before the start of this year. But Simmons implored that it wasn’t his mental health that sparked his desire to leave the 76ers.
“The mental health has nothing to do with just the trade,” Simmons said during his introductory press conference in Brooklyn on Tuesday. “It was a bunch of things that I was dealing with as a person in my personal life that I don’t really want to go into depth with. But I’m here now and it’s a blessing to be in an organization like this.”
Simmons revealed that he talked to 76ers general manager Elton Brand, head coach Doc Rivers, owner Josh Harris, and a few of his teammates after the trade and that “they were happy for me to just be in a different situation and for me to get back on the floor eventually.” Joel Embiid, however, was not one of them.
‘It just piled up’
There was no singular incident that soured Simmons on Philadelphia — whether it was his inability to perform offensively, getting called out by his teammates and coaches, or drawing the ire of the fan base.
“If I knew [what went wrong] I would tell you everything,” Simmons said. “But there’s just a lot of things internally that had happened over time and it just got to a place where I don’t think it was good for me mentally. It is what it is. It happened and I’m moving forward.
“It was more so it just piled up. A bunch of things that have grown over the years that I just knew I wasn’t myself and I knew I needed to get back into that place of being myself and being happy as a person,” he continued. “Taking care of my well-being, that was the major thing for me. It wasn’t about the basketball, it wasn’t about the money, anything like that. I want to be who I am and get back to playing basketball at that level and being myself.”
Philadelphia’s lasting image of Simmons now will be a five-point performance in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, which included him passing up a wide-open dunk.
“I need to get in a good place mentally,” Simmons recounted thinking after that game and into the summer that fueled his trade request. “Honestly, that was the main thing. I think that was part of it. I think I just wasn’t in a place there to do that. A lot of things had happened over that summer to where I didn’t feel I was getting that help. But it is what it is. It wasn’t a personal thing towards any player or coach or owners or anything like that. It was about myself getting to a place where I need to be.”
Now, the question remains of when Simmons will see the court. When asked if he’ll be ready for the Nets’ game against the 76ers on March 10, he simply said, “I hope so.”