We're three weeks into the 2021-22 NBA season and Ben Simmons is yet to play for the Philadelphia 76ers.
After threatening to hold out, having reportedly requested a trade out of Philadelphia over the summer, the 25-year-old did eventually report to training camp, albeit two weeks late.
The star has reportedly cited not being "mentally ready" regarding his delayed return to the court.
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The drama has been constant between both parties in the Simmons-76ers stand-off, with leaks from both parties only worsening the situation.
On Thursday night, The Athletic's Shams Charania had more on the situation from his exclusive with Simmons' agent, Rich Paul.
The latest on the Ben Simmons, 76ers situation
Paul, in an exclusive with The Athletic's Charania, shared that the franchise's recent tactics that are geared towards helping Simmons return to action is only worsening the star's mental health.
This comes a week after the franchise had reportedly fined the point guard $360,000 (his game check) for missing the team's home game against the Detroit Pistons and failing to
"cooperate with team physicians on his mental health issues and fulfill other basketball-related obligations."
MORE: Simmons' return to 76ers surprised nobody
"I truly believe the fines, the targeting, the negative publicity shined on the issue - that's very unnecessary and has furthered the mental health issues for Ben," Klutch Sports CEO Paul said. "Either you help Ben, or come out and say he's lying. Which one is it?"
The relationship between Ben Simmons and the 76ers isn't improving.- The Sporting News (@sportingnews) November 12, 2021
Rich Paul, CEO of Klutch Sports, told @ShamsCharania that Ben Simmons "believes that 76ers' recent actions are exacerbating his mental health issues" pic.twitter.com/cGbOKrcMGU
The $360K fine was the first that the team levied after Simmons shared his issues regarding mental health on Oct. 22. Prior to that, Simmons incurred nearly $2 million in fines for reporting late to camp and his limited basketball activity.
"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. 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."
What was 76ers' response to Shams Charania's report?
The report includes a response from a 76ers team official, denying Paul's accusation that the franchise is forcing him to return or accusing him of lying. The team suggests that short of a doctor's evaluation declaring he can't play, they expect him to ramp up to return.
The franchise also maintains that they have been supportive of Simmons' mental health concerns and have shown good faith with not only releasing to Simmons the $8.25 million they withheld in an escrow on Oct. 19 but also providing him with specialists to treat his back injury and mental health assistance as needed.
MORE: Potential trade destinations for Simmons
And to date, the team shares that they have yet to receive any information from the team therapist or Simmons' personal specialists that would declare him "not ready to play." Paul also had a response to that.
"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 stated. "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."
Charania reports that Simmons met with the team's 76ers' mental health specialist on Monday with more meetings scheduled to take place. The former Rookie of the Year has also allowed for the team's specialist to speak with his personal therapist and work in unison to help him find a path back onto the basketball court.
With the situation ongoing, there could be more updates to follow leading to Simmons' potential return to the court in Philadelphia. Stay tuned.
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