The entire Summer of Ben Simmons has been one long, protracted trade machine discussion. What can the Sixers get for Simmons? Who wants to trade for him? How will he fit on different teams?
There's been a question lingering just outside those conversations, however: When Simmons next plays a basketball game, what exactly is he going to look like?
Because the last time we saw Simmons - and, frankly, the entire reason he's decided he wants out of Philly, and the entire reason Daryl Morey is willing to trade a player of his age and generational talent - he was failing himself and his team in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, refusing to attempt a wide open dunk and clanging free throws willy-nilly in his home arena.
"The first thing I'm going to do is clear my mind and get my mental right," Simmons said after the Game 7 loss, admitting he thought his offensive struggles were at least in part because of a mental block.
How does a player come back from an experience like that? And can Simmons be the guy who overcomes the adversity?
According to a report from ESPN insider Marc Spears, it sounds like the 25-year-old All-Star is all good in the mental department.
Spears appeared on The Jump on Monday to discuss Simmons' expected training camp holdout, and reported that Simmons has found some answers to the questions that were plaguing him during the postseason:
"For Ben, I think he's made his decision up. He's working out in LA. He's doing two-a-days. I've heard he's mentally good. He's just waiting on them."
That quick, five-word sentence - "I've heard he's mentally good" - is what caught my attention. We know what Simmons can do on a basketball court when he's engaged, motivated, and comfortable. The guy is a walking (well, running) highlight reel.
But I'd imagine a part of the Sixers' inability to find a suitable trade partner this summer has been opposing front offices being a little worried about Simmons' ability to rebound from failing in such a publicized manner.
If Simmons is indeed "mentally good" and back to playing his brand of basketball, that's a good sign for the Sixers as they look for trade partners. They might not get a chance to showcase him being back to his old self if he holds out and refuses to play for the team until a trade is made, but the fact that this stuff is floating around basketball circles is definitely a positive.
Sixers media day is in six days. That's when things will get really wacky.