Ben Simmons, mental health, Philadelphia 76ers, return, injury, trade updates, rumours

It took just five minutes for the Ben Simmons saga to take another turn.

This time around, the three-time All-Star addressed his teammates and coach Doc Rivers, admitting he does not feel “mentally ready” to return to the court.

Speaking to media on Saturday, Rivers framed it as a positive change of direction in the drama, which was trending towards an ugly end after Simmons was thrown out of training earlier in the week.

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In reality though, it is unlikely to change all that much when it comes to the 25-year-old’s long-term future at the franchise.

“Doc went out of his way to frame this as a very positive step forward, saying today was a very good day,” ESPN’s Tim Bontemps said.

“This is really the first time Ben Simmons has engaged with his teammates since coming back. Joel Embiid when I spoke to him on Tuesday said he hadn’t talked with him. So today was the first time they had any kind of dialogue at all.”

A report from The Painted Lines’Austin Krell even claimed the pair embraced after the speech.

“That is another thing Doc Rivers framed as a positive step forward,” Bontemps added.

“He’s focused on the possibilities to come rather than the problems they have. We’ll wait to see where it goes from here.”

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That is the important question here.

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There is no change in Simmons wanting out of Philadelphia, although a move towards reconciliation between himself and the franchise can only be positive.

The hope for the Sixers is that it could see Simmons eventually return to the court in the confidence he has the backing of his teammates until a trade comes.

Of course, that then would mean a better chance of increasing his trade value.

Tobias Harris was public in backing his Australian teammate on Saturday, tweeting: “We’ll respect his privacy and space during this time. When he’s ready, we will embrace our brother with love and handle our business on the court. That’s it, that’s all.”

Simmons is unlikely to see the same support from the Philadelphia crowd though if his reception on Saturday is anything to go by.

Rivers admitted Saturday’s development “doesn’t mean it’s going to work out perfect” but that it was a “productive day”.

A productive day that was just what the Sixers needed after franchise legend Charles Barkley declared he doesn’t expect Simmons to ever play for Philadelphia again.

“There’s only two bonds in pro sports: the locker room and the fans,” Barkley said on TNT’s NBA coverage.

“He’s burned both of those bridges.

“I actually blame Ben Simmons a little bit because being in Philly since 1984, I think they would’ve given him a second chance.

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“If he had come to training camp and busted his heart, even last year when he was scared to shoot and wasn’t making free throws, they were giving him some love and trying to encourage him.

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“When he showed up at training camp and didn’t play and didn’t talk to his teammates, it’s over now.”

Barkley added that the Sixers couldn’t waste Joel Embiid’s prime years by not trading the wantaway Simmons.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to divorce a man and get this thing over with,” he said.

“The problem I have with it, I think they should make the trade because if you don’t make the trade you’re wasting the season. Ben’s not going to play in Philly.

“Joel Embiid is the best big man in the game, do you waste his whole year? First of all, I know Philly, Daryl Morey won’t last four years. They’re not going to sit on Ben, you can’t get away with it. You could do that in some other team, but Philadelphia is built to win right now.

“Joel Embiid is in his prime, he’s an MVP candidate, Daryl Morey’s got to sick his pride up and say, ‘You know what? I’ve got to make the best deal’, plain and simple.”