The Ben Simmons saga has featured extensive reporting citing anonymous sources. On Thursday, however, a prominent figure spoke on the record and criticized how the Sixers have handled Simmons.
Rich Paul, the CEO of Klutch Sports and Simmons’ agent, said to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, “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. Either you help Ben, or come out and say he’s lying. Which one is it?”
After requesting a trade in the offseason, holding out of training camp, briefly returning to practice and then being suspended a game for conduct detrimental to the team, Simmons told Sixers teammates on Oct. 22 that he was not mentally ready to play.
Paul wants the Sixers to prioritize Simmons’ well being instead of pushing for him to return to action.
"I don’t think the 76ers are a bad organization,” Paul said. “Josh Harris and David Blitzer are great governors, they’ve done a great job with the organization. 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 realized 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.”
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said Thursday before his team’s loss to the Raptors that Simmons attended a pregame film session, which took place at Wells Fargo Center.
“He was in our film,” Rivers said. “And I honestly didn’t know, but he was — because he was in the back, but I didn’t see him. And not on the floor during shootaround. But he’s been around more and he’s doing all the things that I know of that he’s supposed to do. Honestly, and I said it last week … once the season starts, I’m just focusing on that and I let Daryl and (general manager Elton Brand) and those guys handle all the other stuff.”
Asked if he expected Simmons to join the Sixers on their upcoming six-game road trip, Rivers said, “We play the Toronto Raptors tonight. I don’t know who’s going to be on the road trip. And I’m not trying to ... that is the least thing on my mind right now. I don’t give it two thoughts.”
Even if there’s no timeline for Simmons’ potential season debut, it’s clear the Sixers want him to progress toward playing.
“As it stands, short of a doctor’s evaluation declaring he can’t play, the team expects Simmons to ramp up to return,” Charania reported.
Paul expressed openness toward Simmons appearing for the Sixers again but emphasized that’s not his primary concern.
“This is no longer about a trade,” Paul said. “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.”