Less than 10 hours before the Philadelphia 76ers were set to host the Atlanta Hawks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Ben Simmons was in limbo on whether he would be allowed to play.

"They're not letting me play," Simmons told his brother Sean Tribe and several teammates via text message.

Simmons was being held out of the team's shootaround because of a possible exposure to a team masseuse who had returned an inconclusive COVID-19 test. Several players were questioned about whether they'd seen her that morning, but Simmons was the only one who said that he had. 

"He answered the question honestly, without thinking of the implications," says one source close to Simmons.

According to multiple sources, many within the 76ers questioned whether Simmons had actually seen the masseuse or was just trying to get out of playing. Simmons had attempted only 10 shots combined in Games 5 and 6. Simmons went on to pass up a possible dunk in the fourth quarter that has become an inflection point on his tenure with the 76ers.

"If you're trying to prepare for Game 7, you don't really want to be dealing with that in the morning," a source close to Simmons says. "Especially when the spotlight is already on you."

The staffer and Simmons' test results came back negative, according to sources, and he was cleared to play in the game.