Agent says 76ers actions making Ben Simmons’ mental health issues worse

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Ben Simmons has yet to suit up for a 76ers game this season because — after a trade request and a holdout to start training camphe is not mentally ready to play, he has told the team. After that, the 76ers gave Simmons space for a while but recently pressed him again to see a team-recommended mental health professional, resumed fining him, and asked him to give them some idea when he might return to the court.

That pressure has made things worse for Simmons, his agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports told Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“I truly believe the fines, the targeting, the negative publicity shined on the issue — that’s very unnecessary and has furthered the mental health issues for Ben,” Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul said. “Either you help Ben, or come out and say he’s lying. Which one is it?…

“In this case, we have to get Ben help and not put finances above mental health,” Paul said. “As an agent, I understand contractual obligations and I hold myself accountable in this business. But if someone is telling you something, we can no longer turn a blind eye in today’s world.

“This is no longer about a trade. This is about finding a place where we can help Ben get back to his mental strength and get back on the floor. I want him on the floor playing the game that he loves. I want Ben on the floor whether that’s in a 76ers uniform or any other uniform, that’s not up to me, but I want him in a state where he can resume play. We want to cooperate and want to work him back on the floor.”

Of course, the 76ers rejected the idea they are forcing him to return and said they have not accused him of lying. The team wants him to participate in team activities and keep the organization up on his progress and plans.

Simmons’ mental health needs to be the priority and must be taken seriously. The team and NBPA (and Paul) need to work together to get Simmons the resources he needs and put him in a position to get where he needs to go. That also means both sides compromise a little to give Simmons the space he needs and make sure he is around the team when he can be, and the team understands how he is doing. Both sides probably think they are doing those things, and both sides could probably do better.

Simmons trade talk continues to have little traction right now, league sources continue to tell NBC Sports (despite some wild Celtics trade fantasies online). Things could pick up after Dec. 15, when most players who signed this summer are eligible to be traded, and by that point there may be a team disappointed where it stands and thinking it’s time for a bold move. For now, the trade waters are calm.

And the bottom line is nothing has changed: Simmons is still a Sixer but not playing, and nothing in that part of the equation is likely to change soon.