In Simmons’ first meeting with team personnel last week, a meeting that included Rivers, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand, sources said Simmons reiterated that he was not mentally ready to rejoin the team after the past several months.
The 76ers are not trying to move Simmons and have made clear that they will not deal him at this time, according to sources. The franchise wants Simmons to show up to practices and games, to be engaged and to perform to his capabilities. Simmons is not against playing, but he is not mentally ready yet, sources insist.
It’s unclear whether this leak was intended to engender sympathy or scorn for Simmons.
I know what it’ll achieve, though. At a time more compassion is being given to athletes about their mental health, Simmons will be an exception.
Some 76ers reportedly questioned whether Simmons was mentally ready for Game 7 against the Hawks. Heck, some people will say Simmons, infamous for refusing to shoot 3-pointers, hasn’t been mentally ready to play for a long time.
There will be little sympathy for Simmons over the burdens he has reportedly claimed to be enduring – starting his career on a winning team, Doc Rivers saying he was unsure whether Simmons could be the point guard on a championship team, having to play with Joel Embiid, just generally being underappreciated by the 76ers.
It’s also fair to question whether Simmons did enough to mentally prepare himself for this season. He had some control over that. But he seemingly spent the summer just waiting for a trade that never came. With those hopes dashed, adjusting on the fly can be difficult.
Especially now, Simmons probably is having a tough time navigating his trade demand. But it’s not supposed to be easy! Simmons is under contract four more years. The system is designed for him to show up and play. Simmons can rebel against the system and is doing so. But that can take a toll. James Harden has explained his discomfort in pushing the Rockets to trade him.
Of course, Harden is now talking from Brooklyn, where he got traded. As agonizing as this method is for some players, it’s the best way for a disgruntled player to extricate himself from an undesirable situation.
But I believe Simmons truly is going through it right now – and, as a result, so are the 76ers.