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.”
Dave Joerger is tired of slathering pancakes with butter and syrup. And of seeking out soft-textured proteins such as eggs and fish. And of downing scoops of mashed potatoes. It’s still difficult for Joerger to eat and swallow, making every meal and snack feel like a workout with the goal of collecting calories instead of burning them. But it sure beats the feeding tube the 76ers’ lead assistant coach had hooked to his stomach for weeks.