Ben Simmons, who has not played a game for the Philadelphia 76ers since reportedly requesting a trade in June, feels that the organization is worsening his mental health through "fines, targeting and negative publicity," according to Simmons' agent and Klutch Sports CEO, Rich Paul.
In a report from The Athletic's Shams Charania, Paul insists that the 76ers are attempting to force Simmons to play despite him informing the team that he is not mentally prepared to return to the court. Simmons reported to training camp two weeks late and was thrown out of practice for refusal to participate on Oct. 19. Three days later, he informed the organization that he was not mentally prepared to play. The organization resumed fining Simmons for his absences on Nov. 5, according to Charania, due to a lack of clarity about his process and treatment for his mental health issues.
"Either you help Ben, or come out and say he's lying," Paul told The Athletic. "Which one is it?"
A 76ers spokesman told Charania that the organization is "absolutely not" trying to force Simmons into playing and that they have been fully cooperative by providing resources for Simmons. The team's position is that Simmons should participate in activities such as practices, shootarounds, and video sessions until there is information from the team's mental health professional or from Simmons that states he is unable to do so.
Simmons met with the 76ers' mental health specialist on Monday, but the team says it has yet to receive any information from the specialist or from Simmons that would preclude him from playing or practicing.
Paul disagrees with the 76ers' assessment.
"He's not there yet. How can a doctor, who has only met with Ben once, say, 'Ben is mentally ready to play?' So do we keep digging on him, or help him?" Paul told The Athletic. "Now that we understand that reluctance from Ben, it all makes sense. There was a shying away from it. If Ben has repeatedly shown behavior that entails he isn't mentally ready to play, embrace him. Support him. We have to remove our ego from it. We all have to take responsibility."
Paul also said that in the past few months, the focus has shifted from Simmons' trade request to simply offering support for his mental health.
"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," Paul told The Athletic. "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."
According to Charania's report, Simmons has agreed to allow his personal therapist to share information and collaborate with the 76ers' mental health professionals as they pursue the best course of treatment.