Philadelphia 76ers

Opinion: It’s Time To Let Go Of Ben Simmons

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The definition of distraction is something that prevents someone or something from giving its full attention to something else.

If you look up “distraction” in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of James Harden from last year but, if you look closely, he’s holding a framed picture of Ben Simmons.

When Simmons and his Klutch Sports agent, Rich Paul, approached the Sixers regarding trading Simmons during the offseason, it was all talk. While the noise was loud surrounding the situation, it was the offseason, and there’s plenty to be said for the way they went about it.

There was the initial “need for a fresh start” chatter. It was followed, in no particular order, with Simmons not being able to get along on the floor with Embiid, the team being built around Embiid, not getting along with Doc Rivers, to the most outrageous one which was that Simmons was thrown into a good team and not given the time, on a poor team, to develop without the added scrutiny of being on a contender.

The last one is absolutely insane. Simmons was the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. He sat out his first season, saw the Sixers bring in Markelle Fultz, and lived through the Embiid medical issues in his first few seasons. Anyone that’s the first overall pick in the draft is under intense scrutiny. It’s absurd to think that had Simmons gone to any other lottery team, he would have improved more than he has.

Looking at Simmons, statistically, his past season was his worst. He had career lows in points, rebounds, assists, minutes, and blocks. His steals were the second-lowest of his four professional seasons. While generally regarded as one of the premier defensive players in the league, he’s done nothing to improve his overall game and contribution to the team.

There’s been talk since he arrived that Simmons didn’t want to play in Philadelphia and that he’d prefer to be on one of the teams in California, where he could be more of a “celebrity.”

He failed to realize that there are plenty of “celebrities” in the NBA that don’t play in major markets. Joel Embiid has become one of the most recognizable players in the league while playing in Philly.

For his first few seasons, Simmons was coddled by his quasi-uncle, Brett Brown. While Brown made all of the right comments to the media regarding wanting Simmons to shoot jump shots or improving his outside game, there was never really any enforcement of that when it came to in-game situations. Brown never held Simmons accountable for actually shooting the ball.

Simmons has now become the poster child for entitlement in the NBA. While there’s something to be said for players forcing their way out of situations and teams, the Simmons situation has become more of a joke than anything else.

Through his “people,” there’ve been all of the above-mentioned reasons why Simmons wants out of Philadelphia. What they’ve not looked at is that the city and its fans have truly embraced Simmons for the time that he’s been here. Look at the crowd reactions this past season when he took one of his ten, yes, that’s correct, TEN, three-point attempts over the course of the whole season. When he made a three-pointer, the crowd would go crazy. When he made a steal, scored on a dunk, made a pass, absolutely anything that he’s done on the court, the fans would go nuts cheering for him.

There will always be naysayers and critics, but that’s part of the job that he’s chosen.

At this point in his career, Simmons is an over-rated farce. He’s done damage that I’m sure any number of teams would take on because of what he brings to the table, but it’s not for this team and this city anymore.
Looking at a player like Joel Embiid, who’s dealt with injuries, minutes limits, talk of his weight, strength, and dedication to becoming a better player, and seeing how he’s responded to it, it’s the complete opposite of the coddled and babied Ben Simmons.

Embiid has come to embody everything that the team, its fans, its executives, and the players around him have dreamed of having. He’s a man of the people in the city of Philadelphia. Look up Embiid running through the city or playing pickup games or shooting with kids at local playgrounds. He’s a true celebrity in the city, and he’s taken his job seriously. He’s become a more complete player, he’s a team player, he’s a leader, and he’s deferred to Simmons style of play throughout his career. In spite of having to cater to Simmons, he’s developed into a leading MVP candidate and one of the biggest stars in the league.

Simmons, instead of embracing the success and the team that he has around him, has decided and it doesn’t seem like this is a sudden decision, to separate himself and imagine that he’d be a much better player in a different situation with a different team.

So, how do you handle this if you’re the Sixers management?

Get rid of him. Take the discounted offer that you get. Take the lesser player that may be offered. You’re going to get some picks and some players. While they’re looking to get a star in return, they need to take a step back and assess that this team will be much better, just having Simmons out of the city and off the roster. There’s no amount of goodwill to be garnered by waiting for the “perfect” deal to come along.

Send him to one of the teams in the league that’s just bad. Send him to Oklahoma City, which has tons of picks to be able to make a deal work. Send him to Orlando. Send him to Detroit. Send him and let him see just how great he really had it in Philadelphia. It’s not professional to be vengeful, but, in this case, it’s warranted.
What Simmons has done over the summer and now, since his dramatic and unannounced return to the team, has shown you just the type of man and player he is. Fight fire with fire.

It’s a real shame, as I’ve been a huge supporter of Simmons throughout his career here in Philadelphia. I’ve preached patience. I’ve defended his shortcomings. I’ve been called to task by writers here at Philly Sports Network for my adherence to the belief that Simmons will step up and be the player that we all imagined that he could be. I can’t defend this man anymore. There’s nothing to be said for someone that’s given up on their team. The one paying him close to $40 million per year to play here. For the fans that pay their hard-earned money to watch him play. For the teammates that have worked their whole lives to get to the NBA, only to watch someone act as he has and hold the team hostage.

It’s a sad day in Philadelphia when a supremely talented player has given up on everyone and everything around him. Now, it’s time to give up on him. For the betterment of the team, the betterment of the city, and the betterment of the league.

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Born and raised in Fishtown, I write.

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