And now comes the “kick them on the way out the door” spin portion of the Ben Simmons saga.
After sitting out the first 70% of the season, Simmons was at the heart of the blockbuster trade for James Harden. Simmons is now working both physically and mentally towards his debut in Brooklyn, but now comes a report the problems he had in Philly started because he wasn’t the big dog in the locker room that had Joel Embiid and, for a time, Jimmy Butler. From Marcus Hayes at the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Over the past four years, with greater surety over the past week, several league sources have painted a picture of a paranoid, jealous, entitled young man: frustrated at his own shortcomings, angry that his limited style of play drew criticism, and so stubborn that his refusal to accept coaching led to debilitating anxieties entirely of his own making…
Simmons typically finished his pregame workout long before Butler and Embiid. This put Simmons in the locker room without Butler and Embiid for several minutes. Simmons owned the room in their absence. He told the jokes. He did the teasing. He was the alpha dog.
Then, in came Jimmy and Joel, and Simmons turned tail. Embiid commanded an entire wall of lockers to the right of the entry door. Everyone deferred to him, except Butler. The place got pretty quiet, and when anything was said, Butler usually said it. With Butler in the room, Simmons virtually disappeared.
“That dynamic is accurate,” confirmed a former Sixers employee.
This feels like a parting shot from some frustrated or aggrieved 76ers personnel, ones that wanted to take down Simmons’ mental health reasons for not playing. I’m not about to say what did or did not happen in the Philadelphia locker room years ago, but why air this now? Other than to kick the guy going out the door? It comes off as petty at best.
If being alpha was what mattered, Simmons and Klutch Sports should/would have worked harder to land him in Sacramento or one of the other smaller markets and weaker teams that tried to get in on the trade. He would have been the best player in the room in those places.
In Brooklyn? That is Kevin Durant‘s team and culture. There are strong veteran players and personalities at virtually every locker room stall, plus the pressure is higher there than in Philly — the Nets are a championship or bust team led by a fierce competitor in the nation’s largest media market. Again, Simmons will be asked to play a role, not dominate the ball. It doesn’t sound like the place a wilting player wants to go.
Yet, by all accounts, Simmons is eager to get back on the court. Hopefully, this change of scenery is what he needs to get right and play up to his potential.
As for the Sixers personnel, they have their own concerns to worry about with this trade.