Simmons breaks silence over 76ers trade saga

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Newly traded Australian NBA star Ben Simmons has broken his silence over his controversial trade saga with Philadelphia and said his mental health struggles started well before the flashpoint in the 76ers’ playoff campaign last year.

After joining his new team Brooklyn, he addressed the media in a 17-minute conference overnight and said he didn’t believe he’d be able to overcome his off-court issues in Philadelphia.

Although he joined the squad for practice prior to the Nets’ win over Sacramento on Tuesday, the three-time All-Star is not sure yet when he will join them on the court.

“If I knew, I would tell you everything,” Simmons said when asked why his Philadelphia stint soured. The franchise is believed to have fined him more than $20 million for failing to render services.

“But there’s just a lot of things internally that had happened over time, and it just got to a place where I don’t think it was good for me mentally.

“So, it is what it is. It happened and I’m moving forward.”

Asked if his statement that he was not “mentally ready” to play for Philly had all been an excuse to seek a trade, Simmons said: “People are going to say what they want.

“I’ve had some dark times over the last six months and I’m just happy to be in this situation with this team and organisation.”

He spoke at the Nets’ practice centre, less than a week after the 76ers traded him to Brooklyn as part of a package for James Harden.

The former No.1 overall pick, who was traded for a package centred around former MVP James Harden last week, hasn’t played since the 76ers were beaten by Atlanta in game seven of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Post-game comments from teammate Joel Embiid and coach Doc Rivers after Simmons played poorly were considered the catalyst for his trade request.

But Simmons said that wasn’t the case.

“That was earlier than that series or even that season that I was dealing with and that organisation knew that,” he said.

“So it’s something that I continue to deal with, and I’m getting there and getting to the right place to get back on the floor.”

Simmons said he hoped to be ready to play by the time the Nets visit the 76ers on March 10.

He thanked the 76ers organisation and fans for their support and said he had spoken with some teammates and personnel – though not Embiid – after the trade.

He also spoke that day with Kevin Durant, whom he will join along with Kyrie Irving in a line-up the Nets hope will be good enough to win the Eastern Conference.

“I think it’s going to be scary,” Simmons said.

That was also the expectation for his partnership with Embiid, the 76ers’ All-Star centre.

They led Philadelphia to the best record in the East last season, but Simmons was already dealing with personal challenges he felt required him to leave the organisation.

“I think I just wasn’t in the place there to do that and a lot of things had happened over that summer to where I didn’t feel like I was getting that help,” Simmons said.

“But…It wasn’t a personal thing towards any player or coach or owners or anything like that.

“It was about myself, getting to a place where I need to be.”

Meanwhile, Harden was introduced by the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday and when asked if his new team can win the NBA title, Harden replied in deadpan fashion: “Hell yeah. My job is to help the team win a championship.”

In 12 seasons with Oklahoma City, Houston and Brooklyn, the 32-year-old Harden has made 10 All-Star teams, won the 2018 MVP and earned three scoring titles.

He wants a title, and thinks it can happen in Philly.

“I just knew for a very long time this was a perfect fit,” he said.

“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Harden missed his final four games with the Nets due to a hamstring injury and the first two since joining the 76ers. He is set to make his 76ers debut on February 25 at Minnesota.

“After the (All-Star) break, we’ll get things going,” he said.

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