Plus, there were some interesting new reports of the Sixers’ disastrous Game 7 loss at home to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the playoffs. It was, of course, the game in which Simmons dunked in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter and finished with just five points.
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We were aware of this infamous play and the quotes from Doc Rivers afterwards, but what we didn’t know was that Simmons hardly even performed that night due to a fear of the COVID-19. And furthermore, several members of the organization believed he was lying about it in order to avoid gambling, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne:
“They don’t let me play,” he told his brother Sean Tribe and several teammates via text message.
Simmons was being kept away from the team shooting, he told them, due to possible exposure to a team masseuse, who returned an inconclusive COVID-19 test.
Several players were asked whether they had seen her that morning, but only Simmons said he had seen her.
“He answered the question honestly, without thinking about the implications,” said a source close to Simmons.
But according to multiple sources, many on the team wondered if Simmons had actually seen the masseuse – or was just trying to quit playing as he battled the basketball version of the yips.
Was Simmons really looking for an excuse not to play? It would be quite remarkable, but he’s the only one who knows what he was thinking right now. The problem for Simmons is that some of his teammates and coaches thought he was. This is a bigger problem than a game or a bad game because it shows a lack of faith in one of the supposed cornerstones of the franchise.
This quote from the Shelburne report sums up the problem well.
“’I don’t know if he can face the team or the fans after everything that happened last year,” said a source familiar with the situation. “
So far, everyone has supported Simmons and has publicly stated that they want him to come back. But if they thought he was ready to skip the biggest game of last season, will they be able to fully trust him if he wants to join the squad and play at some point? Likewise, will Simmons be comfortable with the franchise again?
These issues explain why a breakup seems inevitable at some point, and it’s still not clear if Simmons is going to get dressed or if he’s just in town to make sure he gets paid. With or without Simmons, the Sixers are set to open the regular season Wednesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans.