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October 19, 2021

Ben Simmons suspended for Sixers opener after getting kicked out of practice

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Ben_Simmons_8_Hornets_Sixers_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons.

The Sixers have suspended Ben Simmons for one game due to conduct detrimental to the team, the team announced on Tuesday, ruling him out for the team's road opener against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night. Simmons continued to show disinterest in being part of the team at practice on Tuesday, at which point head coach Doc Rivers sent him home for the day.

"I just thought it was a distraction today," Rivers said. "I didn't think he wanted to do what everybody else was doing...I just told him, 'You should leave, Ben' and we went on with practice."

"Every day, every single moment, I'm going to give Ben a chance to join the team and be part of the team. He's under contract to be part of the team, and so that's not going to change."

Simmons, who was expected to speak to the media for the first time since Philadelphia's Game 7 defeat in June, did not speak to reporters about the incident after practice. Since returning from his self-imposed exodus, Simmons' effort has been a consistent issue for the Sixers — when Simmons was going through individual workouts before practicing with the team, a source described his approach as "going through the motions."

That trend continued Tuesday, with Simmons opting out of participating in defensive drills the Sixers had set up at practice. Rivers responded by asking him multiple times to join in before sending him home when it became clear he would not participate in practice, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Without Simmons around to finally clear the air himself, it was left to his teammates to speak their minds once again. Joel Embiid, who has not been shy about this subject all offseason, expressed a desire to focus on the teammates who do want to be here, laying into Simmons in the process.

"At this point, I don't care about that man," Embiid said Tuesday. "He does whatever he wants. That's not my job, that's [the front office's] job. I'm only focused on trying to make the team better, win some games, play hard every night, try to lead the guys we have here, and I'm sure they feel the same way. Our chemistry has been happening the last few months. So like I said, I don't really care.

"I don't care. That's his problem. I'm only focused on what we've been doing. As a team, we're going to be fine."

Embiid — who told reporters recently that he and Simmons had not spoken since Philadelphia's second-round defeat in June — still has not spoken to Simmons since the Australian returned to the team last week. As a team leader, Embiid noted the importance of having relationships with all of his teammates, but believes it is not his responsibility to get Simmons to buy back into the team concept.

"At the end of the day, our job is not to babysit somebody," Embiid said. "We get paid for on the court, go out and play hard, win some games, that's what we get paid for. We don't get paid to come out here and try to babysit somebody. That's not our job, and I'm sure my teammates feel that way."

"I'm just here to worry about the guys that are here now," teammate Andre Drummond added. "That's all I can control personally. I have no real feel for the situation — I just got here, so I don't really know the in-depth situation that's going on. For me, I'm just here to play to the best of my ability and work with the guys that are here now...I'm a professional at the end of the day, so you see crazy things all the time throughout the year."

Simmons' refusal to practice does leave the Sixers in a precarious position during the early portion of their schedule, with guard Shake Milton also currently unavailable while recovering from an ankle injury. Milton has been spotted doing individual work after practices, but the Sixers will go into the season down two guards, and are expected to use a committee of players to share backup duties behind Tyrese Maxey.

"I'm not here to babysit. I'd be willing to babysit if someone wants to listen, but that's not my job. That's out of my control." — Joel Embiid

The line throughout training camp has been consistent from Embiid — the atmosphere has been good internally aside from the Simmons cloud hanging over the organization. Embiid went on the record earlier in training camp calling Simmons' approach "borderline disrespectful" to the rest of the guys on the team, but tried to keep the focus on what they have to do without Simmons on Tuesday.

"His attitude, based on whatever's been reported, I'll let you guys read into that. I have nothing to say about it. It's not my problem. I get paid to deliver, and that's win games, and obviously, the ultimate goal is to win a championship," Embiid said. "Like I always say, I can't do it alone. I need these guys, and the guys who are here are willing to help me, and I'm willing to help them. We're going to continue to grow together."

As the gap between Simmons and the organization continues to grow, there will be further questions about whether this is even worth trying to salvage, with Simmons and his representation now at four months worth of signaling that he is done in Philadelphia. And while Rivers insists he will show up each day and give Simmons a chance to buy back into what they're building, the franchise player does not sound interested in waiting around for anyone. 

"I'm not here to babysit," Embiid reiterated Tuesday. "I'd be willing to babysit if someone wants to listen, but that's not my job. That's out of my control. I'm focused on what's here and trying to win some games."

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