Ben Simmons has received an enormous amount of attention since he last played for the Sixers in June.
Most Sixers fans are aware of his trade request, holdout, return to Philadelphia and one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. And many know all about president of basketball operations Daryl Morey’s insistence that he won’t deal Simmons for anything but a “difference maker.”
In Tobias Harris’ opinion, there should be greater focus on Simmons the human.
After the 25-year-old Australian spoke with his teammates Friday morning and said he’s not mentally ready to play, Harris shared his thoughts on Simmons.
“I think it’s obviously a good start,” Harris said following the Sixers’ loss to the Nets. “But, as I said (on Twitter), I think at this time we have to respect his privacy, his space. We’ve got to be there for him throughout what he’s going through and his process. I think it’s easy to look at something on the surface and come to assumptions on a lot of things — especially (with) athletes. In general in this space, you’re depicted as superhumans and not really supposed to have feelings or go through anything. So I think we just really have to understand he’s a human first.
“If he’s going through something, we have to respect that and we have to be there for him as a team, as an organization, fans — all the way down the line, because when he’s in here putting on a show and helping us get wins, everybody’s cheering and praising. But we live in a ‘What have you done for me lately?’ type of world. And when that’s not the case, it’s easy to turn around. I think at this time, he needs more support than neglect. I think we’ve just got to be there for him as a team. I relayed that to the group and I hope that message is loud and clear to our fans and everybody around the organization.
“And honestly, you guys as well. As media, you guys have a job as well. And I understand the field that you’re in, but you guys have to understand that we’re talking about a person that has a family, has emotions. He’s a great person as well. So we’ve got to really respect and don’t do everything for the clicks — for the clickbait. Understand that we’re a team — Philadelphia 76ers, you guys, media — we are a team. We win games, it helps your job, makes your job easier. I think we’ve got to look at that as a collective effort as well.”
The Sixers have chosen not to reveal much specific information about Simmons. Head coach Doc Rivers said pregame the team would “make sure Ben’s with the right people and see where it goes.”
Addressing fans before tip-off, Joel Embiid referred to Simmons as “still our brother” and, like Harris, asked fans to support the three-time All-Star.
Embiid was less expansive than Harris when asked about Simmons postgame. However, he reiterated that the Sixers are a superior team when Simmons plays.
“That’s the first step,” he said. “That’s a step. Like I always say, that’s on the front office. Hopefully they figure out what’s best for the team, because this is a business. We’re trying to find ways to win. And for us, we have a big opportunity. And like I always say, we are better with him. I wouldn’t mind playing with him. I know my teammates also wouldn’t because at the end of the day, we’re just trying to win.”