Ben Simmons opens up on his NBA woes

Sport, Basketball

Ben Simmons has addressed his infamous passed-up dunk and subsequent Philadelphia exit with rare candour as the Australian nears an NBA return with Brooklyn.

The 26-year-old missed all of last season following a messy fall-out in Philadelphia, eventually traded to the Nets in a deal that saw James Harden head to the 76ers.

Simmons opened up on the experience to former teammate JJ Redick in his The Old Man & the Three podcast, detailing his mental health battle, back injury, trade request and the build-up of tension that led to his decision not to dunk against Atlanta in the game seven finals loss against the Hawks.

“I'm thinking, 'OK, quick pass, he's (teammate Matisse Thybulle) going to flush it', not knowing how much space there was,” he said.

“I was just like, 'OK, f**k, now we've got to go make another play'.

“I didn't realise how everyone's posting (on social media); I'm like, 'It was that big?'.

“It looks terrible … when I look at it now I'm like, 'Man I should have just f***ing punched that s**t.

“I can live with that (but) everyone's trying to kill me over one play.”

Simmons reached a settlement after the 76ers withheld almost $US20 million ($A30 million) of his salary for not playing, the three-time All-Star citing mental health issues.

He said the public mocking of his shooting struggles had subconsciously triggered those demons.

“This started building up and I'm like, 'They're saying I can't. Should I not? I'm f***ing confused now',” he said.

“It did f*** with me a lot.

“You're hearing it all the time from everybody. You're like, 'Get off my case. I do other stuff too. I'm guarding the best players' … I don't think people respect that enough.”

Simmons told the podcast coach Doc Rivers and some teammates did not offer the support he needed when he was not mentally prepared to play, forcing him to practise after requesting a trade and arriving late to their 2021 training camp.

“It seems like everyone's just trying to mess with me now,” he recalled.

“I'm getting fined for not lifting weights, but physically I'm one of the strongest guys on the team.

“Obviously, I didn't handle things the right way. But also the team didn't either, and the people who had that power.”

Simmons clarified that his practice jersey, not a phone, was in his pocket when cameras captured him running drills during his only full session with the Sixers last season.

And he said his back issue, which eventually required surgery after he was unable to suit-up for a touted Nets debut, was initially suffered “going up some stairs”.

Simmons is expected to suit-up for opening night next month for a Brooklyn team that can still call on stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, as well as the Australian's compatriot Patty Mills, on the roster.

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