NBA rumors: Ben Simmons' mental health a priority for Nets

More on Ben Simmons Mental Health

In a meeting with Brooklyn Nets leadership on Monday afternoon,  Ben Simmons and Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul spoke about the physical and mental hurdles remaining in the All-Star's pursuit of a return to play, a discussion that made clear to the participants a need to keep addressing the mental side of that process, sources told ESPN. Simmons reiterated what he has consistently told team officials since his arrival from the Philadelphia 76ers on Feb. 10: He wants to play and perform for the Nets as soon as possible, and still wasn't ruling out that happening this season if the Nets survived Monday's elimination game against the Boston Celtics, sources said. Boston won 116-112 to sweep the best-of-seven series.
The Nets made clear to Simmons and Paul that the organization plans to continue giving the three-time All-Star every resource necessary in the short and long term, sources said. After nearly two weeks of pain-free ramp-up, the Nets and Simmons believed he was on the cusp of playing until Simmons arrived at the team's practice facility on Sunday reporting a return of back soreness. Simmons had been rehabilitating a herniated disk in his lower back and had repeatedly expressed his eagerness to return in the series against the Celtics and perhaps provide some defense on Boston's elite wing players, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
“He’s been enabled his entire life. He’s very aloof. He’s a great player, but it’s all the extra stuff that no one’s held him accountable for that’s just made it difficult. He’s just been left to his own devices to do what the f*** he wants to do.” A longtime NBA scout was quoted in the story thusly: “The best thing that could have happened was that they kept Jimmy Butler, and Jimmy Butler just [long-expletived] him every day until he got better. Or not.”
But beyond the anxiety that has manifested itself in his game (passing the ball rather than going up for a layup or dunk and risking a trip to the free throw line where he was 15-for-45 in that playoff series against the Hawks last year), two sources who’ve been involved with the 6-foot-11 three-time All-Star cast doubt on his claim. “To me, that’s the only untouchable excuse that they could have to get his money back,” said one source. “Like, nobody’s going to question that. That’s the only response to his issues that nobody will walk all over.”
In the January story here, someone close to the situation wondered whether there was a coach who could get through to Simmons, noting that he had problems with Doc Rivers last season and prior with Brett Brown, who was a friend of the Simmons family in Australia before Ben’s birth. “If he wouldn’t do it for Brett, who’s known him since he was born …” the source told Heavy. “Like, if you’re not wired to accommodate family and family friends, then what the f***? “He’s been enabled his entire life. He’s very aloof. He’s a great player, but it’s all the extra stuff that no one’s held him accountable for that’s just made it difficult. He’s just been left to his own devices to do what the f*** he wants to do.”
Said a league exec, “I think pretty much every team has heard that. A lot of guys don’t like to go in a gym and do what they don’t do well. You like to show everybody what you do well. That’s human nature. “But great players want to improve. They NEED to improve. That’s in them.” On Monday, one NBA source who’s dealt with the situation expressed frustration. “When’s he going to play then, next year? Is he going to play in summer league? When’s he going to play? He’s got to play,” he said. “Nobody wants to admit it, but it’s only getting worse. He hasn’t put a uniform on.”
Kevin Love on fans not believing Ben Simmons about mental health issues: “It’s hard to argue feelings, first and foremost. I think a lot of people like to throw shade at a safe distance. I learned from the late, great Flip Saunders that everybody has a part to play, everybody gets to contribute a verse. I understand a scorned fan. I understand Philly fans — they’re a blue-collar type of place. You go there, it doesn’t matter who you are — even if you’re on their team and you don’t play well, they’re gonna let you know.
Gilbert Arenas: “I can understand where Ben Simmons is coming from. It wasn’t the media saying he can’t win, his own coach said ‘don’t know’ if the Sixers can win with him. Teammates know each other weaknesses they know Ben struggles with shooting and confidence issues. Putting him out there like that wasn’t right.”
Gilbert Arenas has never been shy to dish out some heat. But instead of lambasting Ben Simmons like most talking heads have done since that fateful pass to Matisse Thybulle in the Philadelphia 76ers’ playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks, Agent Zero actually got behind him. The outspoken former All-Star was vocal on why he felt that Ben Simmons’ situation with the Sixers was a lot more understandable and didn’t deserve the vitriol it generated against him.
Danny Green: Green: That's it, let bygones be bygones. I understand you have a mental health issue, I understand you don't want to play where you want to — whatever it is, you did what you needed to do to make better for you in your life. That's cool. Do I think you could have handled it better? For sure, because we had nothing against you as teammates, still have nothing against you. But it all depends on how that game goes, how he interacts in that game, how well he plays or how cleanly or non-cleanly he or us plays against each other, is going to determine how we shake hands. But I highly doubt he plays in that game, and if he does, I highly doubt he wants to shake hands before or after that game.
If you were expecting to see Ben Simmons soon after the end of the All-Star Break, you should lower your expectations. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne who has excellent sources in Simmons camp, says the newest Net isn’t likely to play for “weeks.” Here’s what she said on ESPN’s NBA Today Monday… “Ben Simmons, from what I’m told, is going to really ramp it up this week and see where he’s at at the end of the week, but he’s getting close. I don’t think it’s going to–it’s going to be more like weeks rather than months.”
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.
Daryl Morey: To be fair to him, he clearly – I believe [Ben Simmons]. 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.
Daryl Morey: 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.
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