Report: Some 76ers suspect Simmons tried to dodge Game 7 vs. Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks bounced the Sixers from last season's Eastern Conference playoffs at the semifinal stage in seven games. Many people within the 76ers were suspicious that the struggling Simmons tried to get out of playing in the series finale by using coronavirus protocols as an excuse, sources told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.
Hours before the Sixers were set to host the Hawks in Game 7, Simmons was prohibited from practicing with the team because of a possible exposure to the virus via a team massage therapist, according to Shelburne. The massage therapist had returned an initial inconclusive COVID-19 test, and Simmons was reportedly the only player on the roster to come in contact with her on the morning of the game.
"They're not letting me play," Simmons texted his brother and several teammates, according to Shelburne.
Many 76ers questioned whether Simmons was telling the truth and suggested he was trying to avoid playing, multiple sources told Shelburne.
Simmons was mired in a poor stretch of form and decision-making during the postseason that saw the three-time All-Star attempt just 10 shots in Games 5 and 6 combined. Simmons was officially cleared to participate in Game 7, but the results were no better: He scored five points on four field-goal attempts and passed up a wide-open dunk in the latter stages of the 103-96 defeat.
Over the course of the playoffs, Simmons shot 34.2% from the charity stripe - an NBA record for postseason ineptitude - and was the focal point of public criticism from both franchise cornerstone Joel Embiid and Sixers bench boss Doc Rivers.
In the wake of the playoff meltdown, Simmons reportedly told the organization that he had no interest in playing for the team again, and he apparently refused offers from teammates to fly to Los Angeles to talk it over during the summer break.
Earlier this week, Simmons reportedly showed up in Philadelphia unannounced prior to sitting down with general manager Elton Brand and team president Daryl Morey on Tuesday for a "brief" meeting.
Simmons has reportedly cleared health and safety protocols and is eligible to return to the team, but he won't travel for Friday's preseason finale at the Detroit Pistons, according to Shelburne. It's unknown if he has rescinded his trade request.