The lasting image of Ben Simmons‘ 76ers tenure will likely forever be of him passing up a late dunk in the fourth quarter in Philadelphia’s Game 7 loss to the Hawks last season.
That moment led to an offseaosn from hell where Simmons promised to never play for the team again, cut off all contact as the team tried to trade him. His confidence to shoot felt like the baseball version of a player catching the yips.
He stopped shooting in fourth quarters entirely during that series, and his insecurities about his shot seemed to be evident before the game was ever played. A new report suggest several 76ers speculated Simmons tried to get out of playing in Game 7 all together when he was reportedly held out of the team’s shootaround ahead of Game 7 because of a potential COVID-19 exposure.
According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, several members of the organization believed he was just trying to get out of playing the game.
“Simmons was being held out of the team’s shootaround, he told them, due to a possible exposure to a team masseuse, who’d returned an inconclusive COVID-19 test.
Several players were questioned about whether they’d seen her that morning, but only Simmons said that he had.
“He answered the question honestly, without thinking of the implications,” says one source close to Simmons.
But according to multiple sources, many within the team questioned whether Simmons had actually seen the masseuse — or was just trying to get out of playing as he battled the basketball version of the yips.
Later in the day, the staffer and Simmons’ test results came back negative, according to sources, and he was cleared to play in the game. But he wasn’t in a good place, and neither were the Sixers.
“He was thrown,” the source says.”
Simmons has since ended his holdout with the team, but we have no clue how this season will turn out after so many issues from last year will continue to linger in the air.
Simmons averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game in 2020-21.