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76ers' Ben Simmons will take time off to address mental health

Ben Simmons, center, looks on during practice Monday,

Ben Simmons, center, looks on during practice Monday, Oct. 18, 2021 at the Philadelphia 76ers' practice facility. Credit: TNS/Jose F. Moreno

PHILADELPHIA — According to an ESPN report, All-Star guard Ben Simmons told the 76ers during a Friday morning meeting that he’s not mentally ready to play and needs time away. After discussing the situation with the team’s medical staff, the report said, it was agreed Simmons will meet with medical professionals for an evaluation.

Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers spoke before the 76ers faced the Nets Friday night at Wells Fargo Center and he confirmed the meeting took place at the team’s training facility in Camden, New Jersey. He described it as "productive." But when asked directly about Simmons’ mental preparedness, Rivers demurred.

"I don’t get into reports or health," Rivers said. "We’re just going to do what we need to do."

Asked if he expects Simmons to go through an extended absence, Rivers said, "I don’t know yet. We’re going to make sure Ben’s with the right people and see where it goes …There’s steps that we have to take for sure there."

That was as close as Rivers came to acknowledging the team plans to address Simmons’ mental health.

But Rivers made it clear Simmons remains part of the team and he hopes Simmons will return to play and work out differences with his teammates. "Things do change," Rivers said. "That still doesn’t mean that it’s going to work out perfect, or it could. But I’ve always believed that, and I’ve never wavered from that …Today was a productive day. I’m glad it happened."

Following the meeting, NBA reporter Shams Charania tweeted that Simmons said there is shared blame for the situation, including his own responsibility. Teammate Tobias Harris of Islip tweeted in response: "We’ll respect his privacy and space during this time. When he’s ready, we will embrace our brother with love and handle our business on the court."

Asked if he appreciated the show of support from Harris, Rivers said he didn’t see the tweet. "Should I follow him?" Rivers quipped. "If it’s a positive thing then that’s a positive step."

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