The Brooklyn Nets introduced Ben Simmons at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon following his trade from the 76ers last week. Here’s everything the former Sixer had to say in his first public comments since last Thursday’s trade.
Editor’s note: Questions have been edited for clarity.
When do you anticipate being able to play again?
Ben Simmons: I don’t have a date yet but I’m working towards getting back on the floor. … No date yet but I’m starting to ramp it up.
Was there anything this season that could have changed your mind and gotten you to play again?
BS: For me it was just making sure mentally I was right to get out there and play again so that’s something I’ve been dealing with. And it wasn’t about the fans or coaches or comments made by anybody. It was just a personal thing for me that was earlier than that series [vs. Atlanta Hawks] or even that season that I was dealing with. That organization knew that so it was something that I continue to deal with and I’m getting there and getting to the right place to get back on the floor.
There was so much sourced reporting going on with you, so you’re saying the mental health issue preceded you requesting the trade in the offseason. Can you shed a little light on the timeline?
BS: For me that was never … the mental health has nothing to do with the trade. It was a bunch of things I was dealing with as a person in my personal life that I don’t really want to get in depth with. But yeah, I’m here now so it’s a blessing to be in an organization like this and I’m looking forward to getting back on the floor and building something great here.
What has to happen for you to be in the right head space to be out on the court and competing?
BS: Just stay on top of what I need to stay on top of and being consistent with that. Just getting to the place where I can do that.
When you played your last game with the Sixers, what was going through your mind, what were your last emotions? And what was the straw that basically snapped that made you say that it’s time to go?
BS: I don’t think it was … that was more so it was just piled up a bunch of things over the years to where I just knew I wasn’t myself and I need to get back into that place of being myself and being happy as a person and taking care of my well-being. That was the major thing for me. It wasn’t about the basketball, it wasn’t about the money, anything like that. I want to be who I am and get back to playing basketball at that level and being myself.
And what was going on in your mind after the last game?
BS: That I need to get in a good place mentally, honestly. That was the main thing.
When you look at this roster there are times where you can be on the floor with KD and Kyrie, you could be out there without either one of them. How do you see your role in fitting in and what kind of conversations have you had about what that would be?
BS: I think it’s just staying aggressive, playing to my strengths and that’s just being a playmaker and making the right plays, setting my guys up. And then defensively obviously locking down who I need to lock down. So I’m excited to get on the floor with these guys and this incredible team, incredible talent. So I’m super excited.
What were you able to do while you were away from the team that would be able to help you prepare for this moment?
BS: Just being consistent with my work. Every day being very consistent with my work. Making sure I’m taking care of my body and staying on the floor. I was pretty much on the floor every single day just trying to stay ready physically.
What has your routine been since you’ve been away from the team?
BS: So lifting, pilates all that and then on court with my trainers, 1s, 2s, we’ve had some bodies with 3-on-3, 4-on-4.
Did you feel like you couldn’t get back to the place where you wanted to be in Philadelphia and was that part of the reason you asked for a trade?
BS: That was part of it. I just wasn’t in a place to do that and a lot of things had happened over that summer where I didn’t feel like I was getting that help. But it is what it is. It wasn’t a personal thing toward any player or coach or owners or anything like that. It was about myself getting to a place where I needed to be.
Has it helped having that mental re-calibration, has it helped?
BS: I think it has. Just the way everyone has welcomed me here has been great. It’s been a very positive experience just being here so far. I’m looking forward to what’s to come.
Why do you think it got so bad in Philadelphia?
BS: If I knew I would tell you everything. But there’s just a lot of things internally that had happened over time and it just got to a place where I don’t think it was good for me mentally so it is what it is. It happened and I’m moving forward.
How do you think what you do accentuates what KD and Kyrie do on the floor?
BS: I think it’s going to be scary. Having those guys alongside me with multiple different weapons on the floor and I think at the pace we want to play at it’s going to be unreal.
Was it difficult to stay away from basketball and what was most challenging?
BS: Not doing what I love. That was definitely the most difficult part, especially for that long. When you take someone away from what they love doing it’s hard for anybody. Over time I worked on that and was trying to stay in a positive place and get to where I need to be. It was difficult but I’m blessed to be in this situation and have this opportunity.
Who was your supporting cast that helped you get through this? And did you pay attention to the sources talking about your situation?
BS: This is the first I’m really speaking out so the last six months I had everybody saying something but not everybody knew so I can’t really say anything negative towards anybody that was saying something because they didn’t know. And I’m not the type of person to try to put somebody down for something I don’t know about. That’s just not me as a man. I had my family there supporting me from Day 1. I’ve made a ton of friends that work with the Sixers too so it was never a personal thing it was just for my well-being to get where I needed to be.
Is there anything that was said that you’d like to clear up?
BS: Man, we’d be here for awhile. I mean, everybody had a source, right? There’s hundreds of sources.
Do you think you can be ready for the game in Philly (on March 10)?
BS: I hope so.
Where are you now mentally and physically?
BS: Physically I think over the last six months I’ve been working so I feel physically pretty good. Mentally I’m getting there so it’s an ongoing thing to stay on top of that but I think I’m headed in the right direction.
Do you think the way all of this went down do you think this instantly becomes a fierce rivalry?
BS: I’ve been on the other side so I’ve played Brooklyn in the first round and had them booing and Jared Dudley talking s— to me so that was a lot of fun. … But no, I want everybody to be looking at us like we’re the best team. We’ve got to get there, it’s going to take time but I’m positive we can do that and I believe in the coaches and the organization and the players to do that.
When you hear people say your mental health issues are not real do you take offense to that?
BS: No, because I can’t tell somebody else how they feel. I can’t tell somebody you need to do this or that because I don’t know what they’re going through, I don’t know how they are processing things so I can’t do that. But I also can’t put somebody else down for having those comments. I’m just not that person, never going to put my teammates down, my coaches or anything like that.
What was the communication like with Philadelphia on the way out and is there anything you would have done differently?
BS: I spoke to Elton, I spoke to Josh Harris, I spoke to Doc Rivers and I spoke to Tobias and a couple others I spoke to about it. They were happy for me to just be in a different situation and for me to get back on the floor eventually. Overall I think they supported me well enough through this.
Did you speak to Joel Embiid?
BS: No, I did not.
What was trade deadline day like for you?
BS: I was sitting there on my laptop with the TV in front so my phone just started blowing up. It didn’t feel real for a few days. Once I actually drove into the city I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really here’ which was really surreal because I’ve got my family 30 minutes away. I’ve got my grandparents 30 minutes away so it’s nice to have them close by also. I think this whole experience has been kind of surreal.
Was there an emotional release?
BS: I don’t think it really hit me until I was by myself because I was around my brother and friends at the time. So once it really happened I had to take some time to myself and really process it.
What were your emotions like (Monday) in your first practice with the Nets?
BS: For me it felt like it should feel always, my teammates embraced me as soon as I got here and then besides that the fans are very welcoming, which was great. The energy in the locker room and just around the building was just terrific.
Who did you have your first conversations with after the trade and when did you get to talk to KD and Kyrie?
BS: I spoke to KD a couple of hours after. He was great on the phone, he was very welcoming and he was excited too. I think it’s just looking forward to getting on the floor with those guys and that talent.
What do you think your role will be with the Nets?
BS: I think I try to compare it to my early seasons with JJ Redick, [Ersan] Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli who I think we played the Nets or Miami in the first round and just the way we were flowing and playing that’s how I know how to play basketball. I’m a team player, I like to see everybody scoring and contributing in whatever way they can. That’s the way you’ve got to play to win. If you want to be a winner you’ve got to play with all the guys on the floor and use everybody’s abilities and maximize the abilities everybody has.
What do you say to people who are skeptical of your mental health issues?
BS: They should be happy I’m smiling. I’ve had some dark times over these last six months and I’m just happy to be in this situation with this team and organization. People are going to say what they want, they’ve said it the last six months and it is what it is. People are going to have their own opinions.
Do you think there needs to be a change in how we address mental health issues?
BS: For sure. I don’t think people really understand ... I don’t even look at it as pressure, there’s just so many things going on within basketball and life as people. But it is what it is also, I understand the business side. But that’s something people should acknowledge and address if they do need some help and it’s OK to do that.
BS: What work have you done to improve your free-throw shooting?
Non-stop working. Just been in the gym working everyday. Just being consistent and getting that confidence.