Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, the agent for 76ers star Ben Simmons, says Philadelphia's actions in regards to the situation surrounding the superstar's return are taking a toll on his mental health, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania.
"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,” Paul said. “Either you help Ben, or come out and say he’s lying. Which one is it?”
On Nov. 5, the 76ers fined Simmons his $360,000 game salary for missing the game against the Pistons, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The team plans to keep fining the three-time NBA All-Star until he cooperates with team physicians and receives help with his mental health, which he was not accepting. However, Simmons has received help from National Basketball Players Association health professionals.
Per The Athletic, in response to Paul's comments, a team official says the franchise is not forcing his return or accusing him of not telling the truth. However, Simmons's teammates want him to attend activities until the team's mental health professional or Simmons himself says he is unable to do so.
As a result, the franchise expects Simmons to return soon, barring a doctor's evaluation that states he cannot play. Philadelphia sent him a schedule on Thursday regarding the game against Toronto. Simmons came to the practice facility for a team meeting, but did not participate in team's walkthrough or the game against the Raptors. Simmons, per The Athletic, believes the team sending a schedule is an attempt to retain his game check if he does not show up to Wells Fargo Center.
There is currently no timetable for Simmons to return to the court. However, he has explicitly stated to team officials he has no plans to return until he is ready. He has been involved wit the team's individual workouts, day-to-day body treatment, team shoot arounds and meetings.
As Simmons continues to deal with his mental health, Paul—who wants to see Simmons in Philadelphia uniform—says it should not come at the sacrifice of his finances.
"In this case, we have to get Ben help and not put finances above mental health,” Paul told The Athletic. “I understand contractual obligations and I hold myself accountable in this business. But if someone is telling you something, we can no longer turn a blind eye in today’s world.
“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.”
On Monday, Boston expressed interest Philadelphia about a potential trade for Simmons, according to Charania. However, while the 76ers are ready to see Simmons back on the court, he is "not there yet" says Paul.
"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 told The Athletic. “...If Ben has repeatedly showed 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.”
On Oct. 22, Simmons informed the team that he was not mentally ready to play yet. Forward Tobias Harris previously quote tweeted The Athletic's Shams Charania's report, saying, "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."
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