Joel Embiid doesn’t care about the previous three months. He was on board with Ben Simmons returning, even after the disgruntled point guard leaked “borderline disrespectful” things to the media. Embiid processed it and moved on.
The Philadelphia 76ers plan to roll out the red carpet for Simmons when he officially rejoins the team in the next three or four days. Embiid will be the first man to greet Simmons at the gym door. Why? Because that’s what true leaders do.
“It’s good for the organization, you know that’s something that everybody wanted,” Embiid told reporters. “I’ve always said that I believe that he gives us the best chance to win. We are a better team with him than without, that’s for sure. So I’m happy that things are resolved and we can move on and try to be a better team.”
It might be awkward at first. There might be a brutally honest heart-to-heart behind closed doors. Or a passive-aggressive stare. But any leftover uncomfortableness will be broken in after one perfect pick-and-roll.
“There’s going to be adjustments and stuff,” Embiid said. “But everybody has to buy in because if one or two people don’t buy in then you have no chance. So we just need to buy in and believe that we have a chance to win. Which I believe with the group that we have. Obviously, him [Simmons] being back, I believe that we have a chance to win.”
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First Conversation Since Playoff Exit
Simmons and Embiid haven’t talked to each other since June 20 when the Sixers lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. It wasn’t for lack of effort. Embiid tried calling and texting Simmons, but there was no answer on the other end. He even offered to hop on a plane and meet with Simmons face-to-face in California. Don’t bother was the reply.
Other teammates did connect with Simmons including Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle. Those conversations have been kept private. Simmons, via reports, was mad at Embiid for his “turning point” comments. Talking ceased.
“Personally, I haven’t talked to him since the season ended,” Embiid said. “Obviously I tried but I wasn’t successful as a lot of my teammates have. Like I said, it’s unfortunate the whole situation happened. Like I said, we are a better team with him on the floor so there’s going to be, I think there’s going to be some adjustments but it doesn’t need to be awkward.”
Don’t expect Embiid to bow down to Simmons, but he isn’t too proud to welcome him back with open arms.
“I can’t win alone,” Embiid said. “I need help.”
Learning to Lead, Paid to Play Basketball
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers couldn’t stop raving about Embiid’s improved leadership. He called it “off the charts.” Embiid acknowledged that he made leadership a point of emphasis during the offseason. It’s not that the seven-year veteran didn’t know how to do it, he just that he wasn’t doing all the little things on and off the court.
“We went through a lot obviously these past few months. As the organization sees me, that’s my job,” Embiid said. “I have to be a leader whether it’s on or off the court. I have to do my best and that’s really what I’ve been trying to do, just trying to keep the team together because I still believe that we have a chance.”
With so much uncertainty around Simmons’ situation, Embiid made a conscious effort to keep everyone’s spirits up. He needed to make sure no one in the locker room was getting distracted by the outside noise. Plus, he needed to build chemistry with the new point guard in case Simmons never showed.
“I think we are just really focused on the guys that are here,” Embiid said. “We don’t worry about outside what is going on, that’s more the front office’s job. We get paid to just be basketball players and win games. The other part we never really focus on.”