Are you telling me the guy who shut down in the playoffs because he was repeatedly hacked and refused to play for the Sixers ever again because of what a coach and player said in a press conference, might not have it all between the ears? Via Sam Amick at The Athletic (with ads):

According to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation, the frustration surrounding Simmons had been building in recent weeks within the organization. The coaching staff and players have been concerned about his availability and level of play, with some questioning his passion for the game, those sources said. But even when he did play, Simmons’ struggles in his first nine games this season were part of the Nets frustration as well.

Wait, other players and coaches are questioning his passion for the game? I thought in Philly we were crazy for doing that? We were called idiots because we asked him to work on his offensive game. Then laughed at and thought of as cavemen who didn’t understand 21st century basketball because Ben had “intangibles” and could impact other areas of the court. We’re 15 games into Ben Simmons’ career with the Nets and The Athletic (with ads) is already getting leaked information about his passion. Is that a new record?

I also can’t remember an NBA insider ever writing an article where sources from the team are talking shit on a player and they get a real quote from the player the team is talking shit on:

“You’re obviously not gonna be happy when anybody’s out,” Simmons told The Athletic. “But for me, I’ve been dealing with the knee since the start of the season. It’s been swollen. I had PRP (injections). I had blood drained a couple times. So it’s not a made up thing, you know? It’s a real thing.

“I get (the skepticism), but I think the one thing with me is that I’m a competitor. I want to win and play. So I’m gonna do what I can to get out there.”

He then went on to miss the playoffs due to a back issue stemming from a herniated disc. And this familiar theme — his co-workers questioning his professional desire — is one that he knows he can’t control.

“There’s only so much I can really do (about perception),” Simmons said. “You can’t make people believe, you know?

Ben Simmons has to look himself in the mirror and ask who created this perception. Last year, between sitting out, coming back, getting suspended, pulling the mental health card so he gets paid, being traded, filing a grievance, and then having a back issue pop up out of nowhere that makes him unavailable for the playoffs – how can lack of passion not be the perception? If I’m an asshole to everyone I meet I can’t get upset when people tell other people that I’m an asshole. At some point you are who they say you are.