In Philadelphia, the hate for Ben Simmons will apparently never die. It keeps getting renewed by this pundit or that fan from the City of Brotherly Love. Never seen anything like it.
But it’s not just the local media or the guy with the worst seats at Wells Fargo Center whose commentary created a bit of a stir this week. In a general comment during an interview on Take Off with John Clark, Daryl Morey talked about how he now knows he has to consider whether a player can handle the Philadelphia sports scene. Depending on where you sit along the I-95 corridor, that “scene” is 1) intense, and at times highly highly personal or 2) intense and at times highly highly personal ... to an extreme!!
As Liberty Ballers, our SB Nation sister site in Philly, put it:
Daryl says he was surprised that players need to have a special mindset to play in Philadelphia, and he has needed to learn how to identify who those players are as part of his talent evaluation. Here’s the clip as well as a transcription of that portion of the conversation...
"I’d say the biggest surprise is the players who can’t play here”— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) September 15, 2022
“I really do pay attention to the mindset of players. Can they handle playing in Philadelphia? Because I do think it’s a different thing”
Pod with Daryl Morey on Sixers offseason moves⬇️https://t.co/2DH3zYwmfw pic.twitter.com/ycVk75RXZf
Here’s the whole quote, also H/T to Liberty Ballers:
“I’d say the biggest surprise are the players who can’t play here. It’s actually not helpful to me. The more options I have, the better. But I do think I’m starting to learn and I do love it about Philadelphia, ‘cause I do think it gets the best out of our team. And I’ve seen it with not only our team, the Eagles, and the Phillies.
And I never understood this, being in Houston when people would say, ‘Oh, you need to have a special mindset to play in Philly. You need to have a special mindset to play in, maybe, New York.’ Although I think that’s less true. Honestly, I can only speak to Philadelphia because I’ve been here now. I do think, I really do pay attention to the mindset of the players. Can they handle playing in Philadelphia? Because I do think it’s a different thing.”
There is not a person living within 50 miles of Billy Penn’s statue atop the Philadelphia City Hall who doesn’t believe Morey was talking about Ben Simmons. Sorry for the double negative. To be clear, everyone believes the Philly GM was talking about the player who held out last season, citing mental health issues (which Morey said post-trade he believed were real.)
The holdout followed ugly fan and media reaction to Simmons performance in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in 2021 when he passed up an easy dunk. The belief was that he didn’t want to take a shot because he was afraid to shoot free throws.
Morey has on another occasion discussed Simmons’ “sensitivity.” This from the same interview where Morey spoke about Simmons’ mental health issues, also after the trade that sent Simmons to Brooklyn and brought James Harden to Philadelphia.
“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.”
This week’s comment comes a few weeks after the Sixers and Simmons settled their dispute over whether Philly owed their player any part of the $19 million in fines they assessed him for his holdout. Terms of the settlement were not released.
The Nets travel to Philadelphia on November 22 to face the Sixers at Wells Fargo Center, the first chance for Simmons to play against his former teammates. It’ll his second return as a Net, having sat on the bench and watched the Nets blow out the Sixers, 129-100 on March 10.