There was one notable absence at Philadelphia 76ers’ Media Day. Ben Simmons, as previous reports had indicated, did not report to training camp and his teammates don’t anticipate him walking through the door. That doesn’t mean they aren’t still holding out hope.
All-Star big man Joel Embiid pointed out that Simmons remains on the roster. Everyone in the locker room wants him back. Especially Embiid who explained that his “turning point” comments after Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals were grossly taken out of context. He has been in touch with Simmons but declined to go into detail about what the two discussed.
“Of course we want him back. He’s a big piece of what we’ve been doing the past few years,” Embiid told reporters on Monday (Sept. 27). “Obviously there’s a lot of stuff that has happened in between. I know a little bit about all of that but that’s not really for me to reveal. But the way I look at it is, we all got to do better.”
Embiid used the word “disappointed” several times to describe how he felt. It wasn’t meant to disparage Simmons, more to lament the way the situation has played out in the media.
“I’m just disappointed that he’s not here,” Embiid said. “Because he knows it, too. He knows we can win together. I think we just all, as a whole, a few of us have complained about the fans. As a whole, we just need to not care. And just play better. Play our game.”
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Clarifying Those ‘Turning Point’ Comments
Remember when Embiid appeared to criticize Simmons for passing up the dunk in Game 7? He called it the “turning point” in that crucial do-or-die contest. Go back and listen to the full press conference and you’ll hear Embiid pin blame on Matisse Thybulle for missing a free throw. And point the finger at himself for coughing the ball up.
“I know probably you guys [the media] say that maybe my comments had something to do with it,” Embiid said. “Which I don’t think it is because when you listen to the whole quote, it has nothing to do with calling anybody out.
“It was the turning point in the game. If there was anybody that should be mad it should be me frickin’ calling Matisse out for missing the frickin’ free throw. But, you know, we all talk about it. We all joke about it. We know we got to be better.”
There isn’t any animosity between Embiid and Simmons. Head coach Doc Rivers mentioned their off-the-court relationship was stronger than ever heading into the 2020-21 campaign, something Embiid doubled down on during Sixers’ Media Day. They bonded last year and he hopes to further that connection this season.
“Winning cures everything,” Embiid said. “It’s time to take the next step and I hope he really changes his mind because if I didn’t like playing with him, I’m honest, I would say it. But I do love playing with him because he adds so much to our team. I don’t see it as this is my team, I don’t see it like that, it has nothing to do with me.”
Simmons Needs to Improve Offensively
It’s no secret Simmons needs to improve on the offensive end. His jumper is weaker than Ukraine. However, his trainer has been posting videos of Simmons jacking up shots and showing good form. The Sixers are going to need him to do that —assuming he returns — and take the next step. Embiid wasn’t bashful to let that fact be known.
“I’m sure we’ve all seen the videos, so I’m sure that will help,” Embiid said of Simmons. “Because of his potential, and his potential to be that good. I mean we already know what he brings defensively, even without that, offensively he just creates a lot of shots, mainly for our three-point shooters.”
Again, everyone needs to be better and it all starts with the franchise center.
“It’s not all on him, I got to be better,” Embiis said. “Go back to Game 7. I turned the ball over, missed a few easy shots.”