After some time away from the Philadelphia 76ers, Ben Simmons has fond memories of his time in the City of Brotherly Love. He’s also excited to make a comeback during the 2023-24 season and potentially play for Australia in the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
The 27-year-old has had a tumultuous past couple of seasons and opened up to Andscape’s Marc Spears about it all.
He was drafted by the 76ers with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft and then traded to the Brooklyn Nets in a deal for James Harden in February 2022.
He sat out of the entire 2021-22 season and has played in just 42 games for the Nets due to knee and back issues. He spent this offseason undergoing training and rehabilitation in Miami and is now confident in his ability to return to playing at an All-Star level.
“I’m excited because I know I can do it,” Simmons told Andscape. “For me to come back and dominate people will be great. I don’t intend to come back the same player I was last [season] because that’s not even close to where I am. I get excited because I’m like, ‘Damn, I would [expletive] on the player I was last year.’”
In contrast to his health now, Simmons said he shouldn’t have been playing last season, when he averaged 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. He underwent back surgery in April 2022 to treat lower back pain from a herniated disk.
“I don’t think people realize how bad it was in terms of physically how I was feeling and what I was able to do on the floor,” he said. “Being able to sit down now and not have to lean or slouch one way, it’s kind of crazy for me. But I feel I’m at 100 percent now.”
Simmons requested a trade from the Sixers during the 2021 offseason and didn’t play in any regular-season games due to his mental health. He reportedly filed a grievance against the Sixers last year after they withheld about $20 million of his salary. Despite those issues, he says he would go back.
“I’ll always have love for Philly. People always ask me, like, ‘If you were to get traded again, where you want it to be?’ I always say, ‘Just Philly. Philly is a second home to me,’” Simmons said. “And in time, you learn and grow as people. I don’t really have anything bad to say about Philly. It was a crazy situation at the end, but it is what it is.”
With his positive outlook for the season, Simmons also wants to play in the Olympics next year. He hasn’t played for the Australian senior national team since the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championship. He and the Nets decided in June that he wasn’t in the condition to play in this year’s FIBA World Cup.
But Australia won bronze at the 2020 Olympics, its first medal in men's basketball, and Simmons “100 percent” hopes to join the team in Paris.