Ben Simmons has been publicly torched by his own team in an extraordinary end to their turbulent playoffs campaign.
Questions have immediately turned to Simmons’ future after the team was knocked out in the Eastern Conference playoffs at the hands of Atlanta on Monday (AEST).
The Aussie had a spectacular mental breakdown, putting up just four shot attempts as his team fell 103-96 in Game 7 against the Hawks.
The 24-year-old admitted after the game he didn’t have a good series, scoring 69 points in seven games.
His highest-profile teammate and his own coach were much more scathing in their assessments.
Simmons’ most notable blunder came in the fourth quarter when he was too terrified to take an open dunk and attempted to dish off from under the rim.
Why did Ben Simmons pass? pic.twitter.com/M46aatwefX
— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) June 21, 2021
The reaction from teammate Joel Embiid explained it all.
here is Joel Embiid’s reaction when Ben Simmons passed up the wide open dunk pic.twitter.com/lrfdYiYpkv
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) June 21, 2021
Even Sixers coach Doc Rivers, Simmons’ greatest supporter and defender, has lost faith in his chief playmaker.
Embiid was less than subtle when suggesting after the game Simmons’ refusal to dunk the ball was the moment he lost the game for the team.
“I mean, I’ll be honest. I thought the turning point was when we — I don’t know how to say it — but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw and we missed the other and then they came down and scored,” he said.
He went on to say: “I thought that was the turning point”.
The incredible clips of senior Sixers figures turning on Simmons was an ugly look for the team.
Sheesh this is brutal. Probably fair and I appreciate the honesty but from your teammates? Publicly? Ouch.
Wanna give Simmons a hug right now. https://t.co/4BejWC44TF
— Neroli Meadows (@Neroli_Meadows) June 21, 2021
Omg I don’t think I’ve seen a team air one of their guys out like what the Sixers are doing to Ben right now
— Tony Jones (@Tjonesonthenba) June 21, 2021
The pile-on included Shaquille O’Neal declaring on live TV he would have knocked Simmons out if he was a teammate inside the Sixers’ dressing room.
“If he was in my locker room, I would have knocked his ass out,” the NBA legend said after Simmons’ disappearance in the series decider.
The Sixers head into free agency as one of the most intriguing rosters in the game — with widespread speculation Simmons, or most of the team’s roster, could get blown up for another re-start.
Simmons is at the centre of the speculation, and here are a few reasons why:
— For two consecutive games Rivers benched Simmons in the final two minutes with the game on the line.
— He finished the 2021 NBA Playoffs shooting 25 of 73 from the charity stripe. According to ESPN Stats, it is the worst free throw percentage ever seen in the NBA Playoffs, for a minimum of 70 free-throws attempted; and
— In the last six games of the series, Simmons attempted just one fourth quarter shot, scoring a total six points in fourth quarters for the seven game series. He finishes the series with 69 points from seven games.
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