The sports media infrastructure is not equipped to handle issues involving mental health and the discourse from the general public is much worse. And yet with the Ben Simmons saga stretching months and remaining one of the shiniest NBA things, it warrants discussion. Or perhaps you believe it must be discussed to move norms and evolve. Conversations have largely ended where they always do in 2022 and will continue to do in the future: in a cacophony of noise as both camps shout at, or more accurately, past each other.
Simmons' case deserves isolated inspection and nuance. But even cracking the door of nuance gets you shouted down and twists heels deeper into mud. In an ideal world people are taken at their word. We know we live in a far-from-perfect world where the angles are always being calculated. Without access to all the feelings and information surrounding this tumultuous year between the former No. 1 overall pick's ears, no one can claim their conclusion air-tight. Simmons is a Rorschach test. And one where most people have more shades of gray in their opinion than given time to articulate.
Worse, if you do a close reading, it seems that, as always people are more interested in arguing against a more extreme thought than their opposition is bringing forth to the marketplace of idea. One thing we may all agree on is that there's little productivity happening as we debate what's truly going on with the newest Brooklyn Net.
There is less mystery and dissent when it comes to what Simmons' on-court production has been. Since the Eastern Conference semifinals last year, it's been non-existent. That is the ultimate measuring stick for an athlete. It's a results-oriented enterprise.
Through that lens, the ball is in his court. Should he choose to dribble it, pass it, and even shoot it, he will change the equation. His battle with mental health, a universal struggle we all win and lose at times, does not turn on and off based on his ability to be in a starting lineup. But if was talking about his challenges while continuing to play, this whole topic would be in an entirely different arena.
Simmons, now going into a different physical arena in the Barclays Center, will write a different and more interesting chapter whenever he's ready to suit up and play. The way in which he's judged will change, and for the better. It will be easier to share a common language in reacting to what type of basketball player he is when playing basketball.
There are surely some people who will never extend the benefit of the doubt. But Simmons has a golden opportunity to move out of the hardest period of his life and into something brighter by simply doing what he's capable of doing. Hooping at a high level.
It's not the most satisfying answer, and admittedly not the most thoughtful, but it's an answer after a prolonged period of questions.