Australian basketball star Ben Simmons is candid about the mental health issues that nearly “killed me” as Brooklyn Nets’ blue-chip recruit prepares for his return to the NBA.
The prodigious talent has come under fire for his breach of contract with the Philadelphia 76ers and a 486-day absence from the NBA due to injuries and mental health issues.
Simmons was finally fired from Philadelphia late last season to join the Nets but was unable to play due to an ongoing back injury.
Simmons poses for a photo at Brooklyn Nets Media Day at HSS Training Center
Now the Aussie star has opened up about how tough that extended absence has been, the lack of support he says he received in Philly and how seeking help has put him back on the path to happiness.
“I already have a lot to deal with mentally in life, like a lot of people do, but it got to a point where after that series I get the people you’re supposed to have the support of… to either get that, so it took a toll on me,” he told former teammate JJ Redick on The Old Man and the Three Podcast.
“Mentally it killed me. I was like f**k, I have no energy for anything and I was in a dark place and it took me a lot of time.
Simmons (pictured meeting the fans at a media day in Philadelphia this week) is ready for the season after a long hiatus
“The first thing for me was to really identify… it’s not something physical, it’s mental. Recognizing that first that it was a big step for me was a big step for me and I thought, ‘Okay, I need to tackle this. I need help in these areas.
‘Everything is public, that’s the craziest thing. Everyone goes through different struggles. Everyone has their own battles. [It was] difficult for me; I didn’t really have that support from teammates… I don’t care about the money, I want peace and happiness and I want to be in a good place.
‘I didn’t feel like I got it’ [support] from coaches, teammates – I won’t say all teammates because there are great guys on that team who reached out and are still my friends – but I didn’t feel like I got that, and it was just a tough place for me. ‘
Simmons is expected to be fit for the NBA season opener against the New Orleans Pelicans on October 19, but he warns that he will play every possible role to help the team win, whether it lives up to fans’ expectations or not.
“I just want to go out there and affect the game in every way I can, whether it’s making a pick, passing the ball, scoring the ball, making a stop, bouncing the ball back,” Simmons said.
“I don’t care about stories, I don’t care about people saying certain things. I have no control over that – all I can do is focus on what I can do on the pitch, win games and help this team win a championship.”
Ben Simmons and Royce O’Neale of the Brooklyn Nets attend a pre-season game between the Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers
While Simmons claims he had no backing at Philly, with the Nets there’s no problem with his teammates rallying around the guard — including compatriot Patty Mills.
“That’s a chance to win a championship and build a Brooklyn Nets culture,” Mills said.
“Rome was never built in a day… The ability for us to create this bond between us with the adversity to come can hopefully bind us more strongly.
‘I supported him’ [Simmons] a long time from afar.
“To stand on the hardwood with him, I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be very exciting – a great combination, and what he can bring to this team is through the roof.”
Fellow Aussie Patty Mills supports his teammate Ben Simmons
Melbourne-born Kyrie Irving also said Simmons could count on his support, not that he believes the talented guard needs it.
“But he’s a big boy too—he can handle it,” Irving said.
“He doesn’t shy away from the moment and I like that… I just want him to get the best out of himself and we have to help him as teammates.”
“Whatever greatness looks like, he wants it.”
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