Report: Nets teammates saw Ben Simmons as not pushing himself to play in playoffs

Ben Simmons at 2022 NBA Playoffs - Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
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Nets players welcomed Ben Simmons with an inspiring show of solidarity.

But when Brooklyn completed its historically disappointing season yesterday, getting swept by the Celtics, Simmons wasn’t there.

Simmons initially indicated he planned to make his season debut in Game 4. But, citing back pain and mental-health issues, he didn’t play. He didn’t even sit on the bench, in a showy outfit or otherwise, as he had earlier in the series. His absence was supposedly due to back pain.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

According to sources, Simmons told those in the room that a mental block exists for him, dating in part to last summer’s postseason, which is creating stress that could serve as a trigger point for his back issues.

For Nets players, the confusion was not centered around Simmons’ ailment, but with the perceived lack of attempt to play, effort to be in uniform and push his body in these high-stakes playoffs, sources said. Nets players and coaches wanted to see Simmons show resolve and enter this series to start his on-court Brooklyn tenure, even if it was for limited minutes on Monday or none at all while still dressing for the game.

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report:

There had been various people close to him encouraging him to retake the floor, even under limited minutes, to establish a deeper connection with teammates ahead of next season, sources said.

Members of his representation and other close contacts even advised Simmons to at least sit on Brooklyn’s bench in his uniform and team warm-ups rather than the gaudy outfits that became a spectacle.

Nearly every player is battling some health issue this time of year. Each player wants his teammates to do their part toward the shared goal of winning. Not being in Simmons’ mind and body, it’s impossible to know exactly how he’s feeling. Maybe he pushed himself as hard as he reasonably could. Maybe he didn’t.

But it’s notable his teammates, fairly or not, are already not giving him full benefit of the doubt.

Some 76ers reached that point in last year’s playoffs. Impatience for Simmons increased as he sat out while trying to force a trade from Philadelphia. The discord probably exacerbated his mental-health issues.

The cycle is difficult to escape.

Now the Nets enter the offseason on this sour note – not only Simmons facing physiological issues, but people within the organization questioning his commitment.