Little more than a week has passed since the news that came to shake the world of the NBA: Ben Simmons would be traded to the Brooklyn Nets as part of a package for James Harden. The stand-off between Simmons and the 76ers grew increasingly more ugly, with Simmons requesting a trade during the off-season after flaming out in last year’s Easter Conference semi-finals against the Atlanta Hawks. When that didn’t happen, he refused to suit up for the team and was later thrown out of practice be coach Doc Rivers, before sitting out the remainder of the season and citing mental health reasons. But just how did things get so bad?
In a recent interview, Simmons explained that his mental health struggles began long before the 76ers’ season finished and that he felt he wouldn’t be able to overcome them in Philadelphia. Much like the rest of us who watched with puzzle expressions from a distance, Simmons admitted that even he wasn’t sure how things turned so cold in Philadelphia, but that he’s keen on moving on with the Brooklyn Nets.
“If I knew, I would tell you everything,” he 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. So, it is what it is. It happened and I’m moving forward.”
Simmons hasn’t played since that 76ers game against Atlanta, where post-game comments from teammate Joel Embiid and Doc Rivers about his poor performance were considered the catalyst for his trade request. Simmons, however, revealed that wasn’t the case. “That was earlier than that series or even that season that I was dealing with and that organisation knew that,” he said. “So it’s something that I continue to deal with, and I’m getting there and getting to the right place to get back on the floor.”
Thanking 76er fans for their support, Simmons said he’d spoken to some teammates following the trade, as well as with Kevin Durant, who he will join at the Nets. “I think it’s going to be scary,” he said. “Having those guys run alongside me, multiple different weapons on the floor and I think at the pace we want to play at, it’s going to be unreal.”
Many expected Simmons and teammate Embiid to be a power couple out on the court, and initially they did lead Philadelphia to the best record in the East last season. But as Simmons told reporters, by that stage he was already dealing with personal issues that meant he had to leave the club. “I think I just wasn’t in the place there to do that and a lot of things had happened over that summer to where I didn’t feel like I was getting that help,” he said. “But it is what it is. I don’t have any – 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.”
While Simmons didn’t elaborate on his mental health struggles or detail what it was he was dealing with, he did have words for those who saw him smiling at the recent Nets game and don’t believe his struggles were anything more than an excuse to demand a trade. “They should be happy I’m smiling, honestly,” said Simmons. “I’ve had some dark times over the last six months and I’m just happy to be in this situation with this team and organisation. So people are going to say what they want. They’ve said it the last six months and I haven’t commented and it is what it is, so people are always going to have their own opinions.”