Ben Simmons told the Philadelphia 76ers he wasn’t mentally ready to play this season. A mental illness that prevents a player from stepping on the court has to be treated the same as a physical injury such as a sore back, but the 76ers fined Simmons more than $19 million for not playing or practicing while he was with them this season.
Of course, as with all things Ben Simmons, it is more complicated than that — Simmons was trying to force a trade as well and his sitting out can be seen as a holdout — but the mental health argument is at the center of a long-expected grievance Simmons has now filed against the 76ers, reports Adrian Wojnarowski, Ramona Shelburne and Bobby Marks of ESPN.
The grievance – which will now go to an arbitration process – was shared with the team, NBA and National Basketball Players Association late this week, sources tell ESPN. The NBPA is supporting Simmons in the attempt to reclaim his salary.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 2, 2022
Philadelphia has repeatedly insisted that Simmons was in breach of his contract under the collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and National Basketball Players Association and had the right to recoup the money advanced him before the season…
The 76ers have insisted that Simmons breached his player contract upon failing to show up for the starting of training camp and refusing to play during the preseason and regular season. Simmons arrived in Philadelphia near the end of the preseason, but cited mental health issues for the reason that his participation in team activities was so limited.
The arbitrator will have to sort this sticky situation out, including whether Simmons did or did not take the proper steps to fulfill his contract with the 76ers. One advantage Simmons has on his side is 76ers president/GM Daryl Morey said he believed Simmons about his mental condition.
Simmons was eventually traded to the Nets, although he has yet to set foot on the court for his new team due to a back issue, not his mental conditioning. The Nets are leaving open the possibility that Simmons returns for the playoffs, although after missing an entire season it’s hard to imagine them throwing him straight into such a high leverage situation for his first games.
Simmons did sit on the sidelines and hear boos from the 76ers faithful when Brooklyn played in Philadelphia recently. Simmons’ side may bring up his being at that game as part of the grievance process, although it’s hard to see how that would have much bearing on the case.