ESPN Article: Allegations that Ben Simmons Faked COVID Exposure to Avoid Playing Game 7 Against Hawks

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Ramona Shelburne wrote a detailed story about the Ben Simmons situation at ESPN.

Titled, Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers: The evolution of the offseason’s most complex saga, it corroborates a lot of the things that have been reported in recent weeks. Ben allegedly just wants a fresh start, and the Sixers relationship became strained before Doc Rivers even got there. The family situation weighed on him as well, though it didn’t get a lot of publicity last year.

But the most interesting thing is this passage, which contains allegations that Simmons was trying to dodge Game 7 against the Hawks:

ON THE MORNING of June 20, less than 10 hours before the Sixers were due to host the Atlanta Hawks in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series, Simmons was in limbo.

“They’re not letting me play,” he told his brother Sean Tribe and several teammates via text message.

Simmons was being held out of the team’s shootaround, he told them, due to a possible exposure to a team masseuse, who’d returned an inconclusive COVID-19 test.

Several players were questioned about whether they’d seen her that morning, but only Simmons said that he had.

“He answered the question honestly, without thinking of the implications,” says one source close to Simmons.

But according to multiple sources, many within the team questioned whether Simmons had actually seen the masseuse — or was just trying to get out of playing as he battled the basketball version of the yips. Simmons had taken just 10 shots combined in Games 5 and 6 — he’d averaged 11.6 shots a game over his career — and had missed 16 of his previous 23 free throws.

The story goes on to say that he was later cleared to play after negative COVID tests for him and the masseuse came back. But Simmons was reportedly “thrown” and didn’t have confidence in his game going into the deciding matchup with Atlanta.

It’s a fascinating read, probably the most comprehensive thing written about Simmons up to this point.

Also, Ben is listed as doubtful for tonight’s preseason game in Detroit. He was not at shootaround Friday morning and we’ll get an update on his status this afternoon.