Simmons was already limited offensively due to his inability—or unwillingness—to shoot the ball. Things really devolved in the postseason, where he only managed to knock down a third of his free throws. His struggles really came to a head down the stretch of Philly’s Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Down two, with under four minutes left in the game, Simmons had a nice spin in the post to get past Danilo Gallinari, giving himself the opportunity for an easy dunk. Instead, he passed it up, dishing to Matisse Thybulle, who was hammered by two Hawks, and knocked down one of two free throws, cutting the lead to one. On the ensuing Hawks possession, Trae Young found Clint Capela for an alley-oop to push the lead back to three.
After the game, Joel Embiid specifically cited the play as a turning point in the 103-97 loss. In the months since, a split between Simmons and the 76ers has seemed all but done, as soon as Philly can find a trade partner willing to give something decent in return.
Full quote from Joel Embiid: "I mean, I'll be honest. I thought the turning point was when we — I don't know how to say it — but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw and we missed the other and then they came down and scored…
— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) June 21, 2021
Simmons had 13 assists and eight rebounds in the game. However, he scored just five points on 2-of-4 shooting, hitting just one of two free throws. It is hard to think that his overall shooting struggles, both from the line and the field as a whole, didn’t have some negative impact on the mental aspects of his game.
Thybulle thinks the reaction to Simmons’ struggles down the stretch has been very unfair. He reminds people that he made plenty of mistakes in that loss as well, including a foul on a three-pointer by Kevin Huerter that allowed the Hawks to push the lead to four points with under a minute left. Even with that play, he only got a fraction of the hate from fans that Simmons received.
He was thrown under the bus. You asked me if I had been booed or people been mad at me, I made the foul that lost us the last game, and I received almost no… there was a little bit on Twitter, but like the Ben hate was so much louder…just build the frame of reference, like I lost us the game in which lost us the series, and no one really spoke about it, but they wanted to talk about the passing up the dunk and passing it to me more than my foul.
He sees both the 76ers organization and Ben Simmons at fault for the ugly situation right now, just weeks ahead of the season.
Anyways, but I think that both sides, play a decent role in it, right? Like, neither sides really helped themselves through the situation. Whoever started it, whoever’s making it worse at this point doesn’t really matter but, either side has played a pretty decent role in the situation that we find ourselves in right now and on a human level as like his teammate, like, as a friend. You hate to see people put in this situation that’s so heavily covered by the media, because people lose sight of this human aspect of all of us as athletes, especially in these times, especially in controversial times where we’re looked at as like as a commodity. I don’t even know exactly like what people consider us in these moments but it’s not as humans, and I just saw on a personal level I really do feel for him because this would suck for anybody.
Redick, who played with Simmons from 2017-19, called him a friend, and says that people “just can’t appreciate Ben for who he is as a player.” At the same time, he believes Simmons could “do more to help himself” when it comes to the current backlash.
NBA training camp opens next week, and the Philadelphia 76ers are scheduled to begin preseason play on Oct. 4, with the regular season beginning on Oct. 20 with a road game at the New Orleans Pelicans. Right now, it doesn’t seem very likely that Ben Simmons is involved, even if the front office hasn’t found a deal at that time.