NBA

Simmons' agent hits out at 76ers: Fines and suspensions worsening mental-health situation

By Sports Desk November 12, 2021

The Philadelphia 76ers have been accused of worsening Ben Simmons' mental-health situation by agent Rich Paul, who criticised the NBA franchise for fining and suspending the wantaway All-Star.

Simmons is yet to feature for the 76ers this NBA season, notifying Philadelphia he is not mentally ready to play, having sought a trade following the team's shock playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks in 2020-21.

He was suspended by the 76ers for the season opener due to "conduct detrimental to the team", while the Australian guard was reportedly fined for failing to co-operate with team physicians on his mental-health issues.

As Simmons' future continues to dominate headlines amid reported interest from the likes of the Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors, Paul provided an update.

"I truly believe the fines, the targeting, the negative publicity shined on the issue — that's very unnecessary and has furthered the mental health issues for Ben," Paul told The Athletic.

"Either you help Ben, or come out and say he's lying. Which one is it?"

"I don't think the 76ers are a bad organisation. Josh Harris and David Blitzer are great governors, they've done a great job with the organisation. I have respect for Daryl Morey," Paul said. "Ben has a mental issue, let's support him. I'm happy he got to a place where he realised and accepted help. I understand it's a business, but even in business, you need humanity.

"I have a great level of respect and love for the city of Philadelphia, as someone who loves the game, but this isn't about that. This is about Ben getting back to a place mentally where he can be back on the floor — and only Ben can tell us when that is. We have to allow him to do that."

 

Simmons – an elite defender who signed a five-year, $177.2million contract extension in 2019 – and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers, who were eliminated in the semi-finals.

The 25-year-old had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs against the Hawks last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

"In this case, we have to get Ben help and not put finances above mental health," Paul said. "As an agent, I understand contractual obligations and I hold myself accountable in this business. But if someone is telling you something, we can no longer turn a blind eye in today's world.

"This is no longer about a trade. This is about finding a place where we can help Ben get back to his mental strength and get back on the floor. I want him on the floor playing the game that he loves.

"I want Ben on the floor whether that's in a 76ers uniform or any other uniform, that's not up to me, but I want him in a state where he can resume play. We want to cooperate and want to work him back on the floor."

On when Simmons could return to playing, Paul added: "He's not there yet. How can a doctor, who has only met with Ben once, say, 'Ben is mentally ready to play?' So do we keep digging on him, or help him?

"Now that we understand that reluctance from Ben, it all makes sense. There was a shying away from it. If Ben has repeatedly showed behaviour that entails he isn't mentally ready to play, embrace him. Support him. We have to remove our ego from it. We all have to take responsibility."

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