The saga between the Philadelphia 76ers and Ben Simmons is long from over, but last week it reached an unexpected resting point. Simmons, who had been suspended one game after being thrown out of practice, recently addressed the Sixers locker room and told them he's not mentally ready to play to his expectations.
The NBA has tried to be more open and supportive about player mental health, and this is a very public opportunity to demonstrate how far they've come. Simmons is already facing pushback from some who feel that his mental health issues are merely a way for him to avoid playing for the Sixers, something which National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts vehemently rejects.
In an exclusive statement to Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill, Roberts urged everyone to be respectful and supportive of Simmons as he works through a tough time. She also called out Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey's comments about continuing this standoff with Simmons for the four remaining years of his contract.
“Really? Is it so hard to believe that Ben’s not mentally at a place to compete? Professional athletes — like the rest of us — have difficult periods in our lives that require time and energy to heal. We have and will continue to provide Ben with the support and resources he needs to work through this. Threatening the prospect of 'another four years' serves no one’s interests. Like Tobias [Harris], I say let’s respect Ben’s space and embrace him while allowing him the time to move forward.
"So, take a breath and count to 10: We are all too good to continue to play this perpetual game of chicken.”
Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid support Ben Simmons
Roberts isn't the only one preaching understanding. As she mentioned, Tobias Harris, Simmons' teammate, has said multiple times that it's vital that the Sixers support Simmons. After Friday night's 114-109 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Harris spoke out about being there for Simmons, and hoping the rest of the team and the fans follow his lead. Earlier in the day, he used his Twitter account to publicly relay the same message.
Tobias Harris on Ben Simmons
“I think we have to understand he's a human first & if he’s going through something we have to respect that and be there for him as a team, organization. I think he needs some support and I relayed that to the group and I hope that message is clear” pic.twitter.com/EZOZXSYJh7
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) October 23, 2021
And we’ll respect his privacy and space during this time. When he’s ready, we will embrace our brother with love and handle our business on the court. That's it, that's all. https://t.co/eardjmQbz8
— Tobias Harris (@tobias31) October 22, 2021
Before Friday night's game, superstar Joel Embiid addressed the fans. Amid "MVP" chants, he told the crowd that Simmons is "still our brother," and they should support him just like he is.