The Absurdity Of A Ben Simmons Trade Demand
The framing at the moment is that Simmons feels that the organization, in one way or another, didn’t hold up its end of the bargain in the relationship. No, it was Simmons, at each and every turn, who failed to hold up his.
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Allow me to begin this article with a very important caveat: I fully recognize and appreciate the theatrical aspects that accompany a public trade request. I understand that certain things might be leaked to the media in order to achieve certain goals, while not being 100 percent true. It is possible, for example, that Ben Simmons doesn’t feel thrown under the bus by Doc Rivers, but rather simply wants to leave a city that has decidedly soured on him.
In the end, I do not blame him for wanting out of Philadelphia. I think it is in his best interest to get a fresh start. There are a number of very legitimate factors that should lead him to that conclusion.
However, that is just about the longest and nicest olive branch I can extend to Simmons in this situation. Everything about his trade request saga -- from the circumstances that led to it happening, to the way he’s gone about it -- is completely and utterly ridiculous, and Simmons deserves no sympathy on the matter.
While I don’t blame him for wanting out, I do blame him for creating all of the circumstances that have led to him needing to ask out. After four years of this organization trying everything in its power to make Simmons happy, comfortable, and successful, Simmons improved at precisely nothing on offense, never became the player who he claimed he was (and who the organization budgeted for), and had an all-time playoff implosion that left the entire city of Philadelphia in a catatonic state. After all that, to watch him stamp his foot and act like he has all the leverage in the world to ask out is downright comical.
If I didn’t know any better based on the reporting and the chatter behind the scenes, I would say that Simmons’ true motivation has to be as simple as wanting a fresh start. There’s no way he could feel indignant about how the team has treated him. If Simmons wanting out is simply a matter of beef with the organization, where else could have possibly found a more accommodating franchise over the past four years?
Doc Rivers spent the entire season trying to gaslight anyone who would listen into thinking that Simmons’ flaws don’t matter, and that anyone who criticizes Simmons doesn’t know basketball. It was an unprecedented coddling of a professional athlete -- way further than even Brett Brown’s public defenses of Simmons went. For one stray comment after a brutal loss to lead to Simmons losing all willingness to work with him, is bizarre. If this is true, it is downright pathetic.
Rivers didn’t throw Simmons under the bus -- but even if he did, one would think that he’s earned enough respect and caché from Simmons to be able to talk it out like two responsible adults. But it appears no such thing has happened.
Regardless, let’s set aside the Game 7 press conferences for a moment, and focus on the big-picture, team building aspect of things. On that front, it’s hard to see anything pushing Simmons to ask out. Over and over again, they made every effort to let him handle the ball and play point guard even though he is not one. Time and again, they made massive bets on Simmons becoming the player that he claimed he could be, and he never became that player. Simmons campaigned publicly and privately to be the lead ball handler of the team; the Sixers granted him that role, and he rewarded them with one of the most embarrassing playoff no-shows in the history of basketball.
That is no one’s fault but his own. If he didn’t want to be unmasked in such a blatant way in the playoffs, he should have either A) improved his weaknesses, or B) accepted a lesser offensive role by allowing the team to build the roster in a different way.
No such example looms larger in that sense than the decision to let Jimmy Butler walk -- which make no mistake, was a decision made primarily due to his lack of on and off-court fit with Simmons. There were certainly other considerations at play, but none bigger than that one.
In pairing Butler with Joel Embiid, the Sixers had completed the most difficult task in the NBA: acquiring two players who get along, fit together on-court, and are good enough to be the two best players on a championship team. The Sixers punted on that in order to retain a so-so coach and a player who refuses to shoot.
Indeed, the challenges of building around Simmons are all over the Sixers’ failings over the past few years. He has left them with an impossible task -- he will neither improve in a way that allows him to be a primary ball handler, nor accept a role as anything less. Retaining hope that the former would happen, the Sixers accommodated him at every step, only for him to let them down.
And that is the foremost reason why the way this trade request has been made is so bizarre. The framing at the moment is that Simmons feels that the organization, in one way or another, didn’t hold up its end of the bargain in the relationship. No, it was Simmons, at each and every turn, who failed to hold up his. I take no issue with him wanting a fresh start and getting out of Philadelphia. What I do find patently absurd is him developing a victim complex on his way out the door. He has been pampered and coddled since day one by the city and the organization alike -- the fans gave him standing ovations every time he attempted a 3!
I don’t wish him any bad karma, and I don’t blame him for asking out. But Ben Simmons desperately needing a ticket out of Philadelphia is Ben Simmons’ own fault. Maybe the framing of Simmons as the victim in the situation is a media ploy by his representatives to help expedite the process. Or maybe, it’s another chapter in Simmons being completely and totally unable to accept that it is his own flaws that have created this situation.