Amid the never-ending Ben Simmons trade request saga, one thing has been conspicuously absent: Simmons' own voice.
The Sixers' disgruntled former All-Star hasn't talked to reporters since June and has been radio silent on social media for months, leaving us to hear through leaks and occasional agent missives to certain reporters what's actually going on with the guy.
Even when something as important as his mental health was being discussed, Simmons stayed silent and left the messaging to agent Rich Paul, who explained that Simmons was unable to return to the Sixers and start playing because he was dealing with "mental health issues" in November.
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Yet on Wednesday a new report from The Athletic's NBA insider Sam Amick made no mention of the mental health issues that Simmons has been reportedly dealing with and working through, and instead made it sound like Simmons can return to playing basketball professionally whenever he wants - all he needs is a couple weeks.
From Amick's report Wednesday:
"In terms of Simmons’ eventual availability with a new team, the message has been sent that he would be ready to play after a few weeks of intensified conditioning and court action."
It's unclear from which camp this message is being sent. Is this Morey communicating to other front office executives that Simmons will be ready to allay concerns in trade talks? Or is it Simmons' camp talking to front offices about his eventual availability to expedite the process?
But it certainly sounds like, were he traded tomorrow, Simmons would not have a problem returning to the court... which is not the message the Sixers have been receiving.
In November, Paul turned things on the Sixers' front office and essentially attacked President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey for daring to fine Simmons as the 25-year-old opted not to return to play:
"I truly believe the fines, the targeting, the negative publicity shined on the issue — that’s very unnecessary and has furthered the mental health issues for Ben," Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul said. "Either you help Ben, or come out and say he’s lying. Which one is it?"
It was an aggressive statement, but if Simmons was legitimately going through tough mental health issues, it would be right to let him deal with those on his own time and give him space.
With this latest reporting from Amick, however, it seems Morey could turn around and ask Paul a similar question: Either Ben exaggerated his mental health issues because he doesn't want to play for the Sixers... or he would be ready to play for the Sixers after a few weeks of intensified conditioning and court action. Which one is it?
The response would surely be that playing for the Sixers in particular is part of the aforementioned mental health issues, and that's probably true. Simmons is probably worried about the pressure and scrutiny that will come from Sixers fans (not to mention some of the inevitable awkwardness in practice and the locker room) if he were to make a return.
Yet it sounds like Simmons is ready to play basketball for any one of the other 29 teams in the league, which doesn't seem terribly fair.
But, whatever. It would be great if Morey could find a suitable trade return and end this whole thing. The Sixers are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference and are just 4.5 games out of first place.
Let's all move on.