The dust has largely settled following the ugly divorce between Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers. Now 347 days in the rearview mirror, both the Nets and Sixers have their own focuses with James Harden showing signs of being the co-star that was imagined in recent games. The two teams have faced off twice since the trade occurred, with neither being at full strength.
Brooklyn produced a commanding 119-88 victory over the Sixers shortly following the trade while Simmons remained sidelined. They faced off once again in November with both Harden and Embiid out due to injury. Despite this, the Sixers produced a dominant 120-88 victory with the rambunctious Philadelphia crowd behind them.
The two teams are set to square off on Wednesday with the stars finally seeming to align for Simmons and Embiid to take the court as foes for the first time. However, there has been some doubt due to Embiid’s injury status.
It was no surprise to see Embiid ruled out for the previous matchup against the Kings as it was at the tail end of the road trip. Harden also did not play in what most attributed to a scheduled rest day. The Sixers secured a scrappy 129-127 victory despite being without their top two stars and trailing by 21 points in the matchup. However, there is now a greater concern as Embiid did not practice with the team this morning due to the lingering foot issue.
“He’s here, but he didn’t go,” Rivers said of Embiid via Ky Carlin of SixersWire. “We did a lot of skeleton work, walkthrough stuff.”
The head coach also did not offer much of an outlook on his status and put it, “He’s day-to-day. We’ll see how he progresses.”
Rivers finished by making it clear this matchup will not be weighed higher than any other game. As he stated, “It’s the same thing and we just want to make sure it’s right. If it’s right, he plays. If it’s not, we’ll wait another game and see where he’s at.”
On the bright side, Embiid did spend some time on-court following the practice. He participated in a low-impact scrimmage with the Sixers coaching staff where he appeared to look his usual self.
The Nets have also bounced back from their rocky start to the season and moved to 29-17, sitting just one game behind the Sixers. Simmons has shown occasional flashes but has yet to live up to the expectations it was hoped. In the 27.5 minutes per game he has played, Simmons has averaged 7.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists, and 1.5 steals.
While his biggest role is not as a scorer, the former number-one overall pick has further regressed in his offensive desire. His 6.0 field-goal attempts per game are the lowest of his career with his previous low being 10.1 per game. Simmons is also shooting just 43.4% at the free-throw line this season and attempting a career-low 1.5 attempts per game. The fear to get to the line largely contributes to his lack of offensive aggression which became the ultimate unraveling of his time with the Sixers.
The matchup may have lost some of its allure, but there are still sure to be some emotions when the Simmons and Embiid matchup does occur. The Sixers superstar directed plenty of digs at Simmons’ throughout his holdout and the whispers of their fractured relationship occurred throughout their tenure together.
There will be more clarity on Embiid’s status as the game gets closer. Kevin Durant is also set to miss the matchup as he recovers from his MCL sprain. Regardless, it is sure to be an intense matchup as the Sixers look to continue their climb up the Eastern Conference and keep their hot streak after winning 18 of their last 22.