Ben Simmons said in an interview published Thursday that he just wanted help during his time with the Philadelphia 76ers, and that many within the organization were not supportive of him as he struggled with his mental health.
“I was in such a bad place that I was like, f—, I’m trying to get here and you guys are, like, throwing all this other stuff at me where you’re not helping. And that’s all I wanted, it was help,” Simmons told former Sixers teammate JJ Redick on Podcast “The Old Man and the Three”.
“I didn’t feel like I got it from the coaches, teammates, I won’t say all the teammates, because there are great guys on that team that reached out and are still my friends, but I didn’t feel like I understood that, and it was a place Hard for me”.
Simmons, a three-time All-Star, was acquired by the Brooklyn Nets in February as part of the blockbuster trade that sent James Harden and Paul Millsap to the Sixers. Simmons did not play for either team during the 2021-22 season, he had surgery in April for a back injury and had pushed for Philadelphia to trade him after the end of the 2020-21 season.
In February, Simmons said he just didn’t feel like himself during his five seasons in Philadelphia.
He told Redick he tried to “do the right thing” by trying to get back on the court before last season after threatening never to play for the Sixers again, but coach Doc Rivers kicked him out of practice for being a “distraction” after Simmons repeatedly refused to participate in a drill. Ultimately, he was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team.
“I actually talked to Doc before practice. I said, ‘Doc, I’m not ready. Mentally, I’m not ready. Please understand that,'” Simmons said on the podcast. “I tried to let him know earlier, and he was like, ‘Well, I’m going to put you on anyway.'” I’m like, ‘Okay.’ He told me to come in. I looked at it. It was like a minute of practice, like, ‘Ben, come on in.’
“I’m like, first of all, nobody’s doing that. You’re doing this on purpose. And that’s how I felt, too. Seems like everyone is trying to f— me now. They’re finding me for not lifting weights, but physically I’m one of the strongest guys on the damn team. So now they’re fining me for little things. It was just a buildup. Obviously I didn’t handle things the right way, but then neither did the team, and the people who had that power.
Simmons, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft and one of the best defenders in the league, reached a deal with the Sixers to recoup a portion of the nearly $20 million they withheld from him, sources told ESPN in August.
“I don’t care about the money,” Simmons told Redick. “It’s not about the money for me now. I want peace and happiness. I want to be in a good place, and if that costs me whatever it costs, that’s what it costs. My peace is more valuable than money.”
He is expected to be ready for the start of training camp with the Nets later this month, joining new teammates Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
“He’s going to be sick. I can’t wait,” Simmons said on the podcast. “I am very excited. I have a new number, a new jersey. I am looking forward to it. I think we have a special team. I think if we put it all together, we will be the champions.” That is the ultimate goal.”