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76ers president Daryl Morey on Ben Simmons: ‘I believe him’

76ers president Daryl Morey and Ben Simmons

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 25: Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers and President of Basketball Operations, Daryl Morey of the Philadelphia 76ers high-five after a game on February 25, 2021 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Did Ben Simmons miss all his 76ers games this season, as he claimed, due to mental-health issues? Or was he just holding out to induce a trade?

Philadelphia’s judgment seemed apparent, as the team reportedly fined him more than $19 million before dealing him to the Nets.

But 76ers president Daryl Morey said he believes Simmons.

Morey on the “Rights To Ricky Sanchez” podcast:

To be fair to him, he clearly – I believe him. He was going through something. And it was just whether or not we could’ve gotten to the point where we would have him play basketball for us.
I should have had a better relationship with Ben. I really believe that. That’s on me.
I think knowing how sensitive he was to public comments that that behooved us to be, just organizationally, more careful on that. I think it’s important you know your top players and their different spots where you have to pay attention.
I’m usually a more up-front person with trades with players. I’ll be very upfront with them when things could happen. Usually, it’s more around the deadline. So, the timing on the first Harden trade got very challenging, because it was in a time when trades don’t normally happen. And so I could’ve done a lot better.

Morey saying he believes Simmons after the team kept fining Simmons seems incongruous. Perhaps, the fines weren’t Morey’s call. Or maybe Simmons got fined due to not taking, in the team’s eyes, proper steps with his mental-health issues.

However, Simmons – after resistance – met with a 76ers-recommended mental-health specialist in November. The fines reportedly continued long after.

Simmons said his mental-health issues related to his personal life and predated last year’s playoffs. But he also said feeling he couldn’t get to a good place mentally in Philadelphia contributed to his trade request.

Morey said last season he wouldn’t trade Simmons then offered Simmons to the Rockets for James Harden in January 2021. That wasn’t the first time a player saw Morey as far from upfront about trade talks. The executive doesn’t deserve benefit of the doubt.

Throughout the standoff with Simmons, Morey sometimes seemed to antagonize Simmons. Simmons’ behavior was surely frustrating for the 76ers. But Morey’s callousness didn’t help.

Morey sounds like he has learned from this experience. That said, weak interpersonal relationships with his players is a longstanding criticism of Morey. It’s on him to show he has grown in that area.