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Ben Simmons details for first time what went wrong in Philadelphia

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Brooklyn Nets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

While Ben Simmons spoke (glowingly) about the Nets, both team and culture, on The Old Man and the Three podcast, most of his interview with J.J. Redick and Tommy Alter concerned the 76ers and mental health issues. While Simmons was generally positive about his time in the City of Brotherly Love, he heavily criticized the 76ers organization and agreed with Redick’s suggestion that Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid “threw you under the bus” following the Game 7 loss to the Hawks in the 2021 Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Simmons specifically discussed how he felt the 76ers, knowing he was having difficulties related in part to family issues back in Australia, not only didn’t support him as much as needed but made things worse by what he saw as piling on.

“I think it was like, I’m already dealing with a lot mentally just in life, like a lot of people do. Obviously overseas with the time difference,” he said, an apparent reference to an acrimonious and public rift between his brother and sister back in Melbourne.

A lot of the criticism directed at him — and what he perceived as a lack of support — took place immediately followed the Game 7 loss, but Simmons said that even in the off-season, it continued, causing him to go into what sounds like depression although he didn’t use that term.

“It came to a point when after that series getting ... the people you’re supposed to getting support from, comfort from, and I wasn’t getting that either. So, It was taking a toll on me, it killed me, like fuck, no energy from anything, I was in a dark place,” he told Redick, his former teammate in Philly.

“First thing for me, I got to identify ... I got to get right. It’s not a physical thing. It’s mentally. And I think that to acknowledge that was big step for me. Okay, I need to address this. I need help in these areas. Being able to do that has gotten me to where I am now. I’m in a great place and I feel comfortable talking about it now. Those were some dark days for me. And especially because it was all public which is crazy.”

That realization led to his requesting a trade despite having three years and nearly $150 million left on his deal. That in turn led to a number of repercussions, including his decision to hold out until traded and the team’s decision to fine him for every missed game.

“I was trying to do the right thing. with my team, my teammates, whoever it is,” he said of showing up for training camp. “I just wasn’t in that place where I could play. I just couldn’t do it. That day, before practice I talked to Doc and told him, ‘I’m just not ready. Mentally, I’m not ready. Doc, please understand that.’ I tried to let him know prior and he was, ‘I’m going to put you in anyway.’ Told me to get in. Alright. And I looked at him. It was like it was two, one minute into practice and he was ‘Ben, get in!’ And I was, ‘no one is doing that. You’re doing this on purpose. And that’s how I felt. It seems like everyone is trying to f*** me now.

“I’m getting fined for not lifting weights, but physically I’m like one of the strongest guys on the fucking team,” he added, then suggested the team was making him uncomfortable on purpose.

“Now they’re fining me for little things, and it was just a build up of — honestly I didn’t handle things the right way, but also the team didn’t either, and the people who had that power.”

He contended that he wanted to get back on the floor but getting in a good place mentally was more important.

“For me I was trying for myself, personally, to get to a good place. To get back on the floor. So it was never even — getting on the floor was priority, and trying to get myself to a place where I was mentally good to do that.”

He wanted out.

“I was in such a bad place where I was like, f***, I’m trying to get here and you guys are, like, throwing all these other things at me to where you’re not helping, And that’s all I wanted was help. I didn’t feel like I got it from coaches, teammates — I won’t say all teammates, because there’s great guys on that team that did reach out and are still my friends — but I didn’t feel like I got that, and it was just a tough place for me.”

Simmons also dismissed the threat posed by the fines that ultimately reached nearly $20 million. After an arbitration this summer, the 76ers and Simmons agreed to a settlement on how much Simmons would get back. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

“It wasn’t about the money. I was about peace and happiness to be in a good place and if that costs me, that’s what it’s going to cost. My peace is more valuable than money,” he explained.

Simmons was also deliberative in explaining his decision to pass up a wide-open dunk in Game 7 of the Sixers’ loss to the Atlanta Hawks, instead passing it to Matisse Thybulle who got fouled but made only one shot.

“Yeah, I’m now in the moment, I would have spun, and I’m assuming Trae [Young] gonna come over quicker, so I’m thinking he’s gonna come full-blown, and I see Matisse [Thybulle] going. Matisse is athletic and can get up, so I’m thinking, ‘OK, quick pass, he’s gonna flush it,’ not knowing how much space there was.

“It happened so quick, that you just make a read. In the playoffs, you need to make the right decisions the majority of the time. For that moment, bro, it happened and I was just like, ‘OK, f***, now we’ve got to go make another play. That’s how I’m thinking, and I didn’t realize how everyone’s posting. I’m like, ‘It was that big?’”

He noted that in slow motion replays, the decision looks bad but that in the moment, he thought it was the best option. Redick, who told Simmons he should have dunked it, said that “When it slows down, it looks really bad, Ben.”

Redick did not ask Simmons if he deliberately passed up the dunk to avoid going to the line, as Philly fans and pundits suggested.

“It looks terrible,” Simmons admitted. “When I look at it now, I’m like, ‘Man I should have just f***ing punched that shit.’ But it didn’t happen, and I was OK with that. I can live with that. Everyone’s trying to kill me over one play, like, does everyone want to watch film with me? The whole arena? I can dissect everything if you guys want, but it’s not realistic.”

When Redick suggested that Rivers and Embiid “threw you under the bus” in post-game comments, Simmons response was “for sure, for sure.”

Any regrets now, he was asked.

“No, because I wouldn’t be here. I don’t think you just say ‘yeah, I wish I went up and dunked the ball.’ Like that was the because that was the whole game. Like, come on. No, I think if I didn’t go through what I’ve gone through the last year or year and a half done, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now. And I think I needed to go through all that and have those experiences to be where I’m at.”

He also explained why he told teammates that they shouldn’t come visit him in Los Angeles where he spent the beginning of his holdout, a trip proposed by Embiid. The decision also got him some heat.

“So many things happen and people don’t really realize, that’s not the truth,” he said. “You guys were gonna fly out. Now you’re gonna fly out to the end, when training camp’s about to start? I was in L.A. for months. No one came. No one was there. You could’ve came.

“Now you want to make it public that you were flying out? That’s bulls**t. No one was getting on that plane. Come on, man. What’s the f***ing truth? There were guys in L.A. that didn’t say anything to me. There were a lot of things that would get put out that shouldn’t have been put out. And those people know who they are.”

In general, he said the focus on his lack of shooting became frustrating but he also admits it’s an area where he has to improve.

“After a while, It’s just so repetitive. You’re hearing it all the time from everybody. F***ing hell. Get off my case. I do other stuff too like I’m guarding the best player! I don’t think people respect that enough. what I am bringing to the court because there’s a lot of shit I’m bringing to the court! And for me, I just want to win...

“It’s for sure frustrating but it is one of my weaknesses. What? I’m going to get mad at people for saying I’m not good? I’m going to practice and get better. It is what it is.”

“It comes with it. I am who I am,” he added.

He also talked about his pride in his defense an example of the “other stuff” he wasn’t recognized for in Philadelphia.

“Playing both sides of the ball is extremely tiring. especially with a bigger guy like Giannis who’s running all day, it’s tough. But its fun. Having to guard the best players in thw world, it’s fun. It’s taxing but it’s fun, he said.

Still, he was careful to praise Philadelphia ... and its sports culture, up to a point.

“People in Philly just want to have something to say about f***ing everything, man, literally anything. I post a picture of a f***ing car or a dog and I got a reporter saying ‘you should be in the f***ing gym.’ Come on man.

“Philly is obviously a sports city. And my experience playing there was incredible,” Simmons told Redick and Alter “Like, for the most part, it was incredible. I had a great time. The fans are unbelievable. I still have an apartment there … I feel like I’m a part of Philly still.”

But not the 76ers.