“Which One Is It?” | Rich Paul Rips Sixers for Targeting Ben Simmons To Force Him To Play Instead of “Embracing” and “Supporting” His Mental Health

Agent Rich Paul Says 'This is no longer about a trade.'

Ben Simmons (Flickr)

The situation between the Philadelphia 76ers and point guard Ben Simmons continues to worsen. The Athletic’s Shams Charania is reporting that 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.

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The Sixers responded to Simmons’ claim and said it’s not true. Unless there is information from the team’s mental health professional or Simmons that would preclude him from playing, they want him to take part in all team activities and ramp up so that he can be ready to play.

Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, sees things a bit differently.

“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?

This is a very slippery slope the Sixers are walking on. The focus on athletes and mental health has been thrust into the spotlight in recent months. We’re moving away from the macho culture of “toughing it out” and “sucking it up”.

No matter what the Sixers say, the mental health professionals and doctors they provide to the players work for the organization. So whose interests do they prioritize? The patient or their employer?

If you believe we live in a good and just society and most people more or less do the right thing, this shouldn’t be a problem. But do we live in a good and just society? Do we trust the Sixers to do what’s right by Simmons?

“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 said. “Now that we understand that reluctance from Ben, it all makes sense. There was a shying away from it. 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.”

Simmons was reportedly working with mental health professionals from the players union (NBPA). Reportedly, he wasn’t sharing notes or any progress from those sessions with Sixers’ health professionals.

Should Simmons have to share confidential session notes from a mental health professional with his employer?

You can take the other side and say this is all a ploy by Simmons because he doesn’t want to play for the Sixers. His use of mental wellness is an excuse and it does a major disservice to those that are actually struggling.

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That’s a point of view you can take. But how would you prove that?

Is this going to turn into a battle of the mental health experts? The NBPA professionals say Simmons is not ready to play based on their assessment and the Sixers’ professionals saying the opposite. Then what?

An independent third party mental health expert breaks the tie?

Rich Paul says he wants what’s best for his client, whatever that means.

“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.”

Simmons made an appearance to a team film session on Thursday, Nov. 11, before the Sixers played the Toronto Raptors, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said Simmons sat in the back of the film room.

“I honestly didn’t know, but he was,” coach Doc Rivers said before the game. “He was in the back, but I didn’t see him.”

This is a standoff and both sides are dug in.

The Sixers and their president of basketball operations Daryl Morey will continue to fine Simmons if he’s not a full participant. Simmons apparently will acquiesce to certain demands, but on his timetable.

This relationship is broken and beyond repair. There is no trust. You have no shot at reconciliation without trust.

So we wait, until Morey gets a deal that he and the Sixers want. Rumors of a Simmons for Boston Celtics’ wing Jaylen Brown deal have been swirling, but trading Brown is a non-starter for Boston.