Rich Paul accuses 76ers of ‘targeting’ Ben Simmons
The already-toxic relationship between Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers took another turn Thursday when Simmons’ agent accused the organization of further harming Simmons’ mental health by fining him.
Rich Paul told Shams Charania of The Athletic that the Sixers are “targeting” Simmons and exacerbating the player’s mental health issues by fining him. Paul also argued that the 76ers are trying to force Simmons to play regardless of what he tells a team-recommended mental health therapist.
“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?”
According to Charania’s story, the 76ers sent Simmons a schedule for Thursday that included the team’s game against Toronto. Simmons viewed this as a signal that the team would withhold his game check if he did not appear at the arena, as this has happened before.
Paul added that the 76ers should “not put finances above mental health” and focus on getting Simmons the help he needs to play again, be it in Philadelphia or elsewhere.
A team official disputed Paul’s characterization of events, stating that it is “absolutely not” true that the team is either forcing Simmons to return or accusing him of lying. The team believes it has been fully supportive of Simmons, but until they receive information from Simmons or his mental health professional that would preclude him from playing, they expect him to take part in team activities and work toward a return.
The entire story is worth reading and contains other quotes from Paul arguing that the organization is treating Simmons unfairly.
It’s hard to envision this helping the situation between Simmons and the 76ers. It’s also a clear signal from Simmons that he still doesn’t trust the organization. He has ultimately followed the team’s guidance on a key issue after initially refusing to. Doing so appears to have created a new problem in Simmons’ mind. It doesn’t help that there have been rumors that the Sixers do believe Simmons is lying about his mental health status.
Photo: Jan 30, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) talks to fans before a game against the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports