76ers' Tobias Harris: Ben Simmons 'Needs More Support Than Neglect'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVOctober 23, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC -  MAY 31: Tobias Harris #12 hi-fives Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers during the game against the Washington Wizards during Round 1, Game 4 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on May 31, 2021 at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)
Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris said Friday the Sixers must "respect" Ben Simmons' privacy and space as he takes time to evaluate his mental health after briefly returning to the team.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Simmons plans to meet with medical professionals after informing head coach Doc Rivers and his teammates of his decision.

Kyle Neubeck of the Philly Voice provided Harris' response to the situation:

Kyle Neubeck @KyleNeubeck

Harris' full thoughts on Simmons: <a href="https://t.co/1lGYQvhiQw">pic.twitter.com/1lGYQvhiQw</a>

Simmons stayed away from the organization for a vast majority of training camp and the preseason while awaiting a potential trade that never materialized.

The three-time All-Star returned last week, but his status remained uncertain leading up to the Sixers' regular-season opener until he received a one-game suspension from the franchise for conduct detrimental to the team after he was kicked out of practice by Rivers on Tuesday.

After sitting out Wednesday's season-opening win over the New Orleans Pelicans, he returned to inform the team of his intention to focus on his mental health.

Both Rivers and superstar Joel Embiid described the latest development as a positive step toward possible reconciliation between the sides, though the 76ers coach admitted little is certain.

"That's a first step. That's a start," Embiid told reporters after the team's 114-109 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night. "... I wouldn't mind playing with him; I know my teammates wouldn't because at the end of the day we're just trying to win."

Rivers added: "Things do change. That still doesn't mean that, you know, it's going to work out perfect. Or it could. I've always believed that. I've never wavered from that. I've said that a hundred times, and I still stick with it."

A Sixers source told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer that Simmons cited "mental exhaustion" during a meeting with executives and the team offered whatever resources he needed to help him through the situation.

It's unclear whether the 25-year-old point guard plans to remain around the 76ers during his evaluation period, but Rivers confirmed he hoped that would be the case, per Pompey.

"He is part of the team," Rivers said. "I don't know how many times I can say that. We have certain rules. Obviously, the other day that didn't happen. But today was a good day."

Neither Simmons nor the team provided a potential timetable for his return to play.

The Sixers return to the court Sunday night when they visit the Paycom Center to face off with the Oklahoma City Thunder.