Ben Simmons endorsed his way into the basket, spun around Danilo Gallinari for the easy look at the internet — an uncontested layup, a dunk — he passed. Passed the ball. Passed on the shot. Passed on the chance to tie the game.
Joel Embiid threw up his hands in disbelief. With an opportunity to tie Game 7 against Atlanta late in the fourth quarter, Simmons surrendered the opportunity to play postseason hero and fed the ball to Matisse Thybulle.
“I simply assumed Gallo was coming over my back,” Simmons said.
Simmons thought Gallinari would attempt to foul him — much as the Hawks did throughout the seven-game chain victory to hit the Eastern Conference finals — and going to the point in the clutch was a threat the All-Star guard wasn’t keen to take.
His free-throw shooting was the poison in the postseason that finally knocked from that the top-seeded Sixers. Simmons shot 25-for-73 (34 percent ) from the line in the playoffs and missed 27 alone against the Hawks.
He can not shoot 3s (5-for-34 profession ), his free throws failed him and today Simmons is fearful to dunk.
Simmons dropped his shooter, his confidence, and possibly his job in Philadelphia.
How can the Sixers justify bringing him back?
“I still believe in him but we have work to do,” Rivers said. “We’re going to have to get in the gym, put a great deal of work in and go forward.”
Asked if Simmons could still be a point guard for a championship competition, Rivers said he didn’t have an answer. Consider: Simmons did not attempt a shot in the fourth quarter in Game 2. He did the same in Games 4 — 0-for-0 at the final period. Not one shot at the fourth more than five playoff games.
Sixers guard Danny Green said Monday it was unfair that”everybody wants the narrative it is all Ben’s fault”
“It is not just Ben. We all together win or lose,” Green said. “He’s a mentally difficult kid, usually. We do not know what was going on. It occurs with players. Ben has gone through quite a bit this season and it is not his fault that we lost. Everyone will say if Ben had created this, even if I had made a few shots in Game 1 or two so-and so made some shots… we can’t harp on a single player.”
Simmons’ missed dip chance that would have made it 88-all with 3:29 left gnawed at Embiid.
“I will be honest. “We missed the other and then they came down and scored. We didn’t get a fantastic ownership on the other end and Trae (Young) came back and made a 3″
Simmons had been publicly coddled by former trainer Brett Brown and Rivers — that went so far regarding chide a reporter for inquiring why Simmons was playing at late-game situations — before his failures at the fourth ultimately sent him to the bench.
Simmons said”I love being in Philly” but the vitriolic response in the hours after the loss demonstrated it doesn’t love him back.
“Offensively I wasn’t there,” he explained. “I did not do enough for my teammates. There’s a good deal of things I need to operate on.”
Shaquille O’Neal stated on TNT,”When he was in my locker room, I would have knocked his (butt) out.”
The LSU-on-LSU crime makes for great theater but Shaq’s wider point was that it was about time Simmons stopped making excuses for his gloomy play. Simmons said his free-throw anxieties were more psychological than physical. At 24, Simmons seemed aware that a complete overhaul of his game might not occur in Philly — or anyplace.
“I am that I am. It’s exactly what it really is,” Simmons said. “The very first thing I’m going to do is clear my head and get my mental (wellbeing ) right.”
Green said it was a mistake which”people believe Ben does not care.”
“You can see in his play he cares,” Green stated. “I believe he might be a little afraid of things. However, I think because of his interviews proceed, he does not reveal much emotions.
Simmons wouldn’t be the first No. 1 pick sent out of Philly because of potential problems of the mind rather than mechanics. Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 selection of the 2017 draft, had his rookie season slowed by mental issues that led to a busted shot and an eventual exchange to Orlando.
Simmons has been an NBA All-Defensive initial group selection along with his size and power must make him appealing to a team willing to take a flyer on a project with potential.
It is hard to see how that works next season in Philly.
REFERENDUM ON THE PROCESS
The Sixers’ extended reconstruct that began in 2013 and survived a 10-win year and 26- and 28-game losing streaks was planned with a huge payoff at the end.
The No. 1 seed, the home-court edge and also playing a Hawks team that fired its coach and didn’t possess a single All-Star was not enough to even get the 76ers into the East final.
About the only thing Sixers will trust is the second-round exit: Three of championships in the last four seasons along with a first-round sweep this past year.
Tobias Harris wasn’t worth his greatest contract and the bench was a bust in the postseason.
Embiid rose to the level of among the NBA’s elite players but again was exacerbated by an injury that slowed him in the postseason. He’s signed during the 2022-23 season but he is qualified for a”super max” bargain that could pay him $191 million out of 2023 through 2027. Could the Sixers actually risk tying up that money in an injury-prone center who would be 33 at the end of that contract?
Standing pat isn’t a choice and he’s set to talk this week on his vision to the offseason — and what this means for Simmons.