The NBA world (and especially 76ers fans) has been counting down the days for Ben Simmons’ return to Philadelphia. The hype has died down due to the number of injuries sustained by the Sixers as Joel Embiid, James Harden, and Tyrese Maxey are each set to miss time with their foot injuries. Regardless, the 2016 number-one overall pick is ready to step in front of his former fans and take the court for the first time. While he has joked publically about the matchup quite a bit, Simmons will have a difficult task in front of the hostile crowd.
He made his media rounds during shoot around this morning and was peppered with various questions. One topic reporters dug for was his expectations for being in the building with Embiid again. Simmons revealed they have not spoken and stated, “We had a lot of great times, you know, I got a lot of love for Jo too. Obviously, it didn’t work out but that’s life, not everything works out in your favor. I wish him the best, obviously not a championship against us, but the best.”
Simmons was further prodded about not keeping in touch with Embiid. The Nets standout left Philadelphia on bad terms following his trade demand and holdout. Simmons attempted to downplay it and stated, “You’re not cool with everybody, you know? You’re not texting everybody, I think there’s certain people that just you don’t talk to all the time. You know, I got friends I don’t talk to all the time but we’re still cool. That’s just how life went.”
Embiid and Simmons Relationship
Moreso than anyone, Embiid seemed to take Simmons’ exit personally- which is understandable based on the two’s history. The duo were the only remaining fruits of ‘The Process’ and were crucial to turning around the Sixers franchise. They spent four seasons together with the Sixers going 195-86 as a team during this stretch.
Following Simmons’ decision to hold out, Embiid was asked what his message to the LSU product would be. Sitting in front of the cameras during Sixers media day Embiid stated, “Honestly, I would say I’m disappointed…I’ve got to be better — everybody’s got to be better. In the regular season, we’ve been so good and so dominant. We know it’s working. I think it’s all about taking the next step and everybody playing up to their potential…I hope that you know, he really changes his mind. If I didn’t like playing with him, I’m honest, and I’ll say it. I love playing with him because he adds so much to our team. We’ve been building this thing around us. I don’t see it as ‘This is my team.’ I don’t care about any of that,” per Justin Grasso of Sports Illustrated.
The duo never seemed to fully click during their time together on or off the court. Embiid’s post dominance was not a match with Simmons’ up-tempo transition style of play and shooting deficiencies. They still accomplished quite a bit on the court together and produced some exciting Sixers seasons during the four years.
Simmons Fallout From Philadelphia
Embiid also catches plenty of the heat for Simmons’ exit from the organization. The relationship seemed to fully fracture following the postseason loss to the Hawks in which Simmons notoriously passed up the open dunk.
Following the game, Embiid was asked about the turning point of the game and pointed to this sequence. Many perceived this to be him throwing him under the bus as the short clip made its way around social media. Doc Rivers did not help the case by replying “I don’t know,” when reporters asked if Simmons could be a point guard on a championship team following the loss.
However, the full quote is not as bad as it was made out to be. As Embiid put it, “I thought the turning point was just, you know, we had an open shot and then we made one free throw and we missed the other. Then they came down and scored and we didn’t get a good possession down on the other end and Trae (Young) came back and made a three and then from there, down four. And then I go and, it’s on me I turned the ball over. I tried to make something happen from the perimeter. But I thought that was the turning point.”
It is anticlimactic for Simmons to return without Embiid to face him. The matchup of teammates turned foes will have to wait for next time as the Sixers superstar suffered a foot sprain during the loss to the Jazz. Simmons is sure to be showered with boos and jeers from the Philly fans regardless, but this is not the must-watch matchup it was once expected to be.