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Morey: I believe Ben Simmons when he says he missed games because of mental health issues

Philadelphia 76ers Introduce James Harden

Starting in training camp, the 76ers imposed fines on Ben Simmons, fines that eventually reached $19 million before Philly sent him to Brooklyn in a blockbuster trade from James Harden at the deadline.

Other than an initial levy for refusing to participate in a practice, the fines were for each game he missed, $360,000 per. While he stated early on that mental health issues were at the heart of his decision, the fines kept coming every game. Still, Daryl Morey, the 76ers GM, told the “Rights To Ricky Sanchez” podcast that he believes Simmons was telling the truth about his issues.

“To be fair to him, he clearly – I believe him. 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.”

Then, Morey spoke about Simmons “sensitivity” ... which one could take in different ways.

“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.”

Morey’s position seems to be a bit tricky. The Sixers never publicly discussed details about their star’s mental health issues. Moreover, even if they had details, they couldn’t discuss them within HIPAA guidelines. Still, the Sixers seemed to have doubts about it all considering they continued to fine him.

Here’s where it gets tricky: There’s a provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that exempts players from being denied their salary “if such failure has been caused by the player’s mental disability.” It all seems like it could lead to arbitration.

As Dan Feldman of NBC Sports wrote Friday about Morey’s comments...

Morey saying he believes Simmons after the team kept fining Simmons seems incongruous. Perhaps, the fines weren’t Morey’s call. Or maybe Simmons got fined due to not taking, in the team’s eyes, proper steps with his mental-health issues.

Indeed, other than that initial fine in training camp, the $19 million came after Simmons agent, Rich Paul, told the 76ers of his issues — and therapy — on October 22. The fines for missed games started on November 5. Indeed, Simmons agreed to meet with a team-recommended psychologist around that time. (Simmons own therapist had been recommended by the players union, the NBPA.)

If there’s arbitration where Simmons tries to get all or part of those fines back, it would seem that Paul would cite Morey’s comments.

Philly fans — and even some in New York — contend that Simmons was using mental health issues as a way to force his way out of Philadelphia, that it was all contrived. “Does anyone believe that (he had those mental health issues)?” WFAN’s Evan Roberts asked on the air the day of the trade. “But I don’t want to minimize mental health issues,” per Bob Raissman. The Daily News media columnist also noted that ESPN’s Chris Carlin similarly claimed, “By Ben Simmons seemingly using it (mental health problems) as an excuse, well, it’s inhumane,” adding that it is also “frustrating” ... “disgusting” and “an insult to those who suffer.”

In his press conference Tuesday, Simmons contended that his issues was not just related to his professional situation with the 76ers.

“The mental health has nothing to do with the trade,” said Simmons talking about his trade request. “It was a bunch of things I was dealing with as a person in my personal life that I don’t want to go into depth with. I’m here now so it’s a blessing to be in an organization like this. I’m just looking forward to getting back on the floor and building something great here.”

Meanwhile, In the same Philly podcast, Morey spoke about how he failed to get Harden a year ago when the Nets won the battle for The Beard’s services. Reports, including from Morey earlier in the week, suggested that he wanted a three-team deal 13 months ago in which Harden would have gone from Houston to Philadelphia and Simmons from Philadelphia to Brooklyn. Morey did not say who the Nets were prepared to give up in that deal.

“Usually, it’s more around the deadline,” he said of trade talk. “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.”