When will Ben Simmons look in the mirror?


Ben Simmons is an ultra-talented human being. There’s a saying in my family for people like Ben Simmons: "All the fairies were there when he was born."

Well, maybe not all of them.

Simmons does many wonderful things on a basketball court. His defense is nearly unrivaled. He has very good court vision, especially for a somewhat inexperienced point guard. He goes end-to-end with the ball faster than most players without it.

His problem isn’t a jump shot. He has one, and it’s not bad. I mean, he showed it his rookie year, and in recent summers on social media.

Simmons problem is what he doesn’t have: any semblance of self-awareness.

We saw Simmons shrivel in the spotlight of four straight fourth quarters during the playoff series loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Yes, he played great defense. But when the Sixers needed a basket in crunch time, as they did throughout much of that series, where was he? Hiding in the “dunker” spot, likely hoping no teammates saw him.

He played 55 fourth quarter minutes in the series against Atlanta. He took three shots. Three. After that decisive Game 7, when asked if he has a different mentality once the playoffs begin, he refused to take one scintilla of blame for his shortcomings.

“No, I'm not going to let you say that," Simmons said. "We lost, it sucks. I am who I am. It is what it is. "

In case you don’t know the definition of “It is what it is,” it’s “I know what’s going on, but I am unable, or unwilling, to do a damn thing about it.” In Simmons’ case, it’s the latter.


And now Simmons wants nothing more to do with the Sixers, reportedly because his head coach and his teammate chose to speak in veiled truths about him. Joel Embiid isn’t the problem. Doc Rivers isn’t the problem. Rivers bent himself into a pretzel chastising reporters for asking questions about Simmons after another one of his offensive vanishing acts. Brett Brown wasn’t the problem either; that’s increasingly evident now.

The expiration date on the platitude that Simmons is a young player, that “it’ll come,” is long gone. He’s 25 years old. He has played in more than 300 NBA games, counting the postseason. The three-time All-Star is one of the best in the game in the regular season. The playoffs are a different sport, and it’s a sport Simmons doesn’t seem to want to play.

For multiple seasons now, Simmons has refused to address or overcome his gun-shyness, whether it be incorporating a mid-range game or, in this latest iteration, simple lay-ups and dunks, for fear of getting fouled. And he has never been willing to admit that he himself is his not only his biggest obstacle, but the team's biggest obstacle, on the way to a championship.

When the Sixers play a December game against the Cavaliers, or any other bottom-feeding team, Simmons is a force with the basketball. In the fourth quarter of a playoff game, that basketball in his hand may as well be a grenade with the pin pulled. He can’t wait to get rid of it.

Ben Simmons’ problem is, and has always been, Ben Simmons. When he figures that out, if he figures that out, he could unlock the player that Sixers fans envisioned five years ago when he was drafted.

But he'll most likely figure it out for another team.