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 didn’t support him as he struggled with his mental health.
“I was in such a bad place where I was like, f—, I’m trying to get here and you guys are, like, throwing all these other things at me to where you’re not helping. And that’s all I wanted, was help,” Simmons told former Sixers teammate JJ Redick on “The Old Man and the Three” podcast.
“I didn’t feel like I got it from coaches, teammates — I won’t say all teammates, because there’s great guys on that team that did reach out and are still my friends — but I didn’t feel like I got that, and it was just a tough place 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, undergoing surgery in April for a back injury, and he had pushed for Philadelphia to trade him after the end of the 2020-21 season.
In February, Simmons said that he just didn’t feel like himself during his five seasons in Philadelphia.
He told Redick that he tried “to do the right thing” by trying to get back on the court prior to last season — after threatening to not play for the Sixers again — but he was kicked out of practice by coach Doc Rivers for being a “distraction” after Simmons declined several times to sub in for a drill. He ultimately was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team.
“I actually spoke to Doc before practice. I was like, ‘Doc, I’m not ready. Mentally, I’m not ready. Please just understand that,'” Simmons said on the podcast. “I tried to let him know prior, and he was like, ‘Well, I’m going to put you in anyway.’ I’m like, ‘All right.’ He told me to get in. I looked at him. It was like one minute into practice, like, ‘Ben, get in.’
“I’m like, first of all, no one’s doing that. You’re doing this on purpose. And that’s how I felt, too. It seems like everyone’s trying to f— with me now. I’m getting fined for not lifting weights, but physically I’m one of the strongest guys on the f—ing 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, also, the team didn’t either, and the people who had that power.”
Simmons, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft and one of the league’s top defenders, reached a settlement with the Sixers to recoup a portion of the nearly $20 million 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’s going to cost, 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.
“It’s going to be sick. I can’t wait,” Simmons said on the podcast. “I’m so excited. Got a new number, new jersey. I’m just looking forward to it. I think we have a special team. I think if we get it all together, we’re going to be the champions. That’s the end goal.”