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Report: Ben Simmons’ camp thinks the Sixers are trying to ‘force him to play’

NBA: Playoffs-Atlanta Hawks at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Ben Simmons situation took another twist this evening. While the Sixers are in a game against the division rival Toronto Raptors, Shams Charania of The Athletic dropped a bit of a bomb on the evening.

To catch you up to speed, once upon a time Ben Simmons asked for a trade. The Sixers haven’t found one they like and have indicated no interest in trading him until that changes. Simmons missed some team events and the Sixers began to fine him. Then Ben confided to team leadership and teammates he was not mentally ready to play and so the team stopped fining him. Then that may have changed last week when we read the fines were back on.

For what it’s worth, Ben Simmons has been around the team.

We learned that he has been working with team skills and development coaches. It is less clear what other activities he’s been part of (film, conditioning, etc.) and whether that participation has been consistent or up to the team’s standards. We made an attempt for clarification on this last point from the team and received no update yet.

The latest from Charania:

“Ben Simmons believes the Philadelphia 76ers’ recent actions are exacerbating his mental health issues, and that the team wants to deem him fit to force him to play, regardless of what he tells the team’s mental health therapist, his agent told The Athletic on Thursday.

“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 Rich Paul said. “Either you help Ben, or come out and say he’s lying. Which one is it?”

Analyzing this one is frankly, a bit above my pay grade. The one thing I’m most comfortable saying is that the situation is ugly.

The team wants to help their star return to their lineup, even though the star (and the fans) may not want the same thing.

Simmons’ camp seems to be suggesting that the 76ers efforts are not helping and even actively hurting their own cause.

The report adds that:

“76ers team official told The Athletic on Thursday it is “absolutely not” the case that they are forcing his return or accusing him of lying. The team’s position is that he should partake in all team activities until there is information from its mental health professional or Simmons that would preclude him from playing....

Sixers officials said they were pleased to hear Paul state he is open to Simmons staying in Philadelphia.”

If you ignore the latest back and forth and the rumors you’re left with a team vying for a title without their second best player. If he were to return to the lineup, healthy and engaged at any point this season, that would enhance their chances of winning the East. But is that something any one but the Sixers’ brass wants?

Is it possible that another team might really want Simmons (we have heard that the Timberwolves are interested) but now have to reevaluate that since he has no timetable to return to the court? If Simmons’ camp thinks the Sixers are “exacerbating mental health issues” as Shams writes, then would he be ready to play sooner for another organization or would a potential acquiring team wonder about his return as well?

It’s possible that Simmons returning to the lineup, whenever that day may be, is his best chance to get a trade; assuming that’s still his goal. The Dec. 15 date is important because that’s when some players who recently signed contracts are trade eligible. Marc Stein, via Substack, has indicated that would be the earliest possible date we might see a trade.

In the mean time, there is a basketball game on television.