PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ben Simmons may have missed his last playoff free throw with the Sixers.
Simmons will not report to Philadelphia 76ers' training camp next week and prefers to continue his NBA career with another team, a person with direct knowledge of the player’s plans told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because discussions of Simmons' plans with the franchise have been private.
Simmons said after the season, “I love being in Philly."
Simmons, the No. 1 pick of the 2016 draft, is a three-time All-Star who had been paired with Joel Embiid as the franchise cornerstones as the Sixers chase their first NBA championship since 1983.
Simmons, though, took the brunt of the blame for the top-seeded Sixers' second-round exit in last season's playoffs. He shot 34% from the free-throw line in the postseason and was reluctant to attempt a shot from anywhere on the floor late in games. That led to him spending critical minutes on the bench.
Simmons missed a stunning 10 free throws in Game 5 against the Atlanta Hawks and helped blow a 26-point lead in a loss. His defining moment, though, was in the Game 7 loss at home.
With a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, Simmons surrendered the opportunity to play postseason hero and passed on an open look at the rim because he was afraid he would get fouled.
Simmons did not attempt a shot in the fourth quarter in Game 2 against the Hawks. He did the same in Games 4 through 7 — going 0 for 0 in the final period. Not one single shot in the fourth over five playoff games.
Simmons just finished the first year of a $177 million max deal. He averaged 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists over four seasons with the Sixers, who drafted him out of LSU, where he played only one season.
Simmons shot 25 for 73 (34%) from the line in the playoffs and missed 27 alone in the second round against Atlanta. He is a 5-for-34 career NBA 3-point shooter.
Asked after the Game 7 loss if Simmons could still be a point guard for a championship contender, coach Doc Rivers said he didn’t have an answer.
Embiid also pointed a finger at Simmons for the loss, the comments seemingly creating a rift that would see the 25-year-old guard from Australia likely never play a game again for the Sixers.
“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,” Embiid said.
Embiid, though, tweeted his support for Simmons on Sept 1.
“I love playing with Ben,” he wrote. “Stats don't lie. He's an amazing player and we all didn't get the job done. It's on me personally. I hope everyone is back cuz we know we're good enough to win.”
The 76ers are scheduled to have media day on Monday, with training camp opening the next day at their complex in Camden, New Jersey.
Sixers President Daryl Morey tiptoed around the Simmons issue in June, yet he said he still believed the guard could be part of a championship nucleus.
“Not addressing Ben Simmons, but any move that will help our team win the championship or improve our odds, we will look at or do if it makes sense,” Morey said.
The Sixers can let Simmons sit and fine or suspend him, or withhold his pay while Morey canvases the trade market looking for a quality offer — complete with draft picks — for the disgruntled star. Simmons was an NBA All-Defensive first team selection, and his size and strength should make him attractive to some team willing to take a flier on a project with potential.
Without Simmons — or a viable replacement in a trade — the 76ers would be stuck trying to replace him at point with second-year guard Tyrese Maxey. They could also move Seth Curry to point and start defensive menace Matisse Thybulle.
One thing is clear: The issue is unlikely to be settled by the start of the season.
Simmons found few positives over the final months of the season. Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal claimed he would punch out Simmons if they were teammates and Charles Barkley said Simmons was “scared to death to shoot.”
Simmons chalked up the criticism to playing in Philly.
“I am who I am. It is what it is,” he said in June. “The first thing I’m going to do is clear my mind and get my mental (health) right.”
And the next thing, apparently, was request a trade.
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