Ben Simmons tells Philadelphia 76ers he's not mentally ready to play, sources say

ByABC News
October 22, 2021, 11:19 AM

All-Star  Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons plans to meet with medical professionals for an evaluation after telling the team Friday that he wasn't mentally ready to play to his expectations and needed time to step away, sources told ESPN.

Simmons met separately with coach Doc Rivers, medical staff and teammates Friday morning at the team's facility in Camden, New Jersey, and started a process that is expected to continue to keep him from making his season debut, sources said.

After he told the team's medical staff of his reasons for needing to seek help, the Sixers continued to offer Simmons whatever resources are necessary to assist him, sources said.

Simmons was officially ruled out of Friday's 114-109 loss to the Brooklyn Nets (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) for personal reasons.

The Sixers have been fining Simmons for missing games, practices and meetings -- nearing $2 million this season -- but there is a provision in the collective bargaining agreement that protects players' salaries for failing to render services "if such failure has been caused by the player's mental disability."

Sixers reserve forward  Georges Niang wasn't willing to get into specifics of what Simmons told the team, saying only, "We left the meeting understanding what he had to say, and we came out and got ready for Brooklyn."

After Simmons addressed the team, Rivers spoke with reporters and said the day was a positive step forward for the organization.

"Today was a productive day," he said. "I'm glad it happened."

Rivers, however, went out of his way to avoid putting any sort of time frame on how long this situation might drag on.

"I've felt good, up-and-down, throughout, and I kept saying that to you guys," Rivers said. "Things do change. That still doesn't mean that, you know, it's going to work out perfect. Or it could. I've always believed that. I've never wavered from that. I've said that a hundred times, and I still stick with it."

In a video that was shown on the big screen before Friday's game, Simmons was briefly shown four times, including throwing down a pair of dunks.

The Sixers avoided the potential awkwardness of having to address the Simmons situation before the game -- and the potential boos that would've come along with announcing his name -- by introducing only the starting five. Typically before a team's home opener, the entire roster is introduced.

After the video, 76ers star center  Joel Embiid addressed the crowd before tipoff and expressed his appreciation for the fans inside Wells Fargo Center, who forced him to wait for several seconds to begin speaking as they showered him with "M-V-P" chants.

"It's good to have you back!" Embiid said, receiving yet another roar. "On behalf of my teammates, the organization and myself, I just want to say thank you for your support for all these years. A lot has happened the last few months and I hope you guys continue to support us and our teammate Ben, because he's still our brother. Let's go!"

Simmons, 25, requested a trade four months ago and has told the team that he has no interest in returning to play for the franchise again. The Sixers have been unable to find a trade that meets their threshold for a return package that includes a high-level All-Star player, and have wanted Simmons on the floor to honor his contract. Simmons has four years and $147 million left on his five-year maximum deal.

Simmons left the team's practice facility Thursday without participating in a scheduled individual workout. He did undergo a brief treatment on his back before the Sixers' medical team cleared him for on-court participation.

In a Philadelphia radio interview with 97.5 The Fanatic on Thursday, 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey reiterated that the team wouldn't be rushed into trading Simmons, saying, "People should buckle in. This is going to take a long time."

Simmons' agent, Rich Paul, had told Sixers officials that Simmons wasn't mentally prepared to play, sources said, and that was a message that Simmons relayed directly Friday morning.

Simmons was suspended for the Sixers' victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday after Rivers threw him out of practice Tuesday for failing to sub into a session. Simmons lost approximately $227,000 for Wednesday night's suspension.

The Sixers had hoped to see Simmons work out Thursday and have him go through shootaround Friday, sources said. The 76ers did not practice Thursday, and Simmons has yet to fully engage in a team practice since reporting Oct. 11 after a two-week holdout.

ESPN's Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.