After Simmons had demanded a trade himself from the Philadelphia 76ers last offseason, he refused to play for them this past season, and he was sent to Brooklyn before the trade deadline.
However, he didn’t play for the Nets either, as he had back surgery and also claimed he had a mental health issue.
But according to ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith, Simmons is ready to play this coming season.
I ran into Ben Simmons and he said this.. pic.twitter.com/kLjhRu6OW4
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) August 15, 2022
“I spoke to him privately,” ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said during an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show. “He convinced me that his problems were very, very real. … But he’s convinced me that he’s ready to go this season.”
This is fantastic news for Nets fans, especially after Simmons drew lots of ire for the way he had conducted himself going back to the spring and summer of 2021.
Simmons Left A Bad Taste In People’s Mouths
Ever since entering the NBA in 2016 (he didn’t play in the 2016-17 season due to a fracture in his right foot), many have felt Simmons has had superstar potential.
He seems like a unicorn – a 6-foot-11, 240-pound point guard who is explosive in the open court, can finish strong, rebound well and hit the open man with ease.
Simmons has also become one of the NBA’s better defensive players over the last couple of years, and he has made two All-Defensive First Teams.
But plenty of observers have also questioned his attitude and mindset, going back to when he left Louisiana State University to enter the NBA Draft.
In 2021, the 76ers lost to the seemingly inferior Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the playoffs, and in Game 7 in Philly, Simmons was unusually passive, as he took just four shots and passed up a wide-open dunk at one point.
After the game, head coach Doc Rivers was asked if Simmons could be the point guard of a championship team, and he said he wasn’t sure.
Doc Rivers answers a question whether Ben Simmons can be the point guard of a championship team pic.twitter.com/8xL35u98RC
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) June 21, 2021
It was a seemingly ambiguous answer, but it set Simmons off.
Shortly afterward, Simmons demanded a trade and indicated he wouldn’t report to training camp, which he didn’t.
Despite the pleas of Joel Embiid and others, Simmons effectively estranged himself from the rest of the organization, and it finally realized it had no choice but to trade him.
Throughout the sports world, many accused Simmons of being soft.
Ben Simmons your softer than a snow flake, you are straight pathetic at this point! Thank God you are NOT our problem anymore! pic.twitter.com/nzCjTGrbCD
— 💲tephen Black (@SNBlack_23) April 24, 2022
If you can’t take constructive criticism in #Philly AFTER getting max deal.. quit !#snowflake #mrbasketballIQ if you’re gonna brag about your game you better back it up. Can’t make (won’t take) beyond a 10 ft shot bc nobody pushed @BenSimmons25 to improve.. including #benhimself
— smells (@IamKidKelly) June 7, 2021
A Chance To Start Anew
Even after all the controversy he has been involved in going back to last June, Simmons has an opportunity to distance himself from it and change the narrative around him.
He is now on a team that seems to have a better chance at winning an NBA championship than the Sixers did, and there may be less pressure on him now since he’ll be expected to be the third-best player on his team, rather than the second-best player.
It will be interesting to see how head coach Steve Nash uses Simmons in his set offense, especially given that he is unable and unwilling to shoot the ball outside the paint.
If Simmons pulls himself together and becomes fully committed to his team and to basketball in general, he could eventually win over the same people who have blasted him over the last 15 months.