Ben Simmons started the NBA season in street clothes due to his nagging back injury and ended it the same way. He's been the talk of the town (along with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving) over the past 48 hours as he went from reportedly gearing up to play in Game 4 to backing out at the last minute.
Simmons' decision not to play in game four reportedly rubbed the Brooklyn Nets the wrong way. According to Bleacher Report's insider Jake Fischer, Nets management and Simmons' representatives persuaded him hard to suit up for Game 4, confident that he had recovered physically. Still, it was the forward who begged not to suit up.
"There had been various people close to him encouraging him to retake the floor, even under limited minutes, to establish a deeper connection with teammates ahead of next season, 'sources said. By all accounts his ailing back is not 100 percent healthy, but few NBA players at this stage of the playoffs are free from some form of nagging pain. Members of his representation and other close contacts even advised Simmons to at least sit on Brooklyn's bench in his uniform and team warm-ups rather than the gaudy outfits that became a spectacle,"
Jake Fischer, Bleacher Report
Simmons continues to play the mental health card.
Coming into game four, the Nets already looked defeated and had no answers for the Boston Celtics' swarming defense. While Durant and Irving tried to do their part, Brooklyn could've really used Simmons' defense and playmaking.
However, the first-round pick in the 2016 NBA draft once again left his team hanging and used the mental health card as an excuse for not wearing a jersey on Monday night.
"Instead, the Nets ruled Simmons out of Game 4 altogether, sources said, as a sense of fatigue from the situation and general disappointment seemed to permeate the franchise. But for all the ramp-up concern and rightful consideration of back issues that have plagued Simmons for multiple seasons, it's quite clear that the mental aspect of Simmons' return to game action is the biggest hurdle standing between him and an NBA court."
Jake Fischer, Bleacher Report
Another brutal look for Simmons
This isn't, by all means, to mock Simmons for his mental health concerns (mental health problems are a real thing), but Simmons' inability to play in an elimination game just tarnished his reputation even more.
The Nets gambled for Simmons by trading away James Harden at the trade deadline, hoping that the latter would thrive in a completely different environment. Unfortunately, Simmons just made his situation worse and potentially damaged his relationship with his new team — the same team that gave him a chance to recover from his failures.
Now, the question for Brooklyn moving forward is if they still want to ride it out with Simmons. According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, both parties will try to get on the same page in the summer. Simmons now has two offseasons to recover from his physical and mental issues. Whether or not the Nets decide to move on from Simmons will be an interesting storyline to follow in the offseason.