Ben Simmons blew up mercilessly as the Nets lost in his return to Philly

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A spirited 76ers team without Joel Embiid and James Harden spoiled Ben Simmons’ return to Philadelphia with a 115-106 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night.

Simmons, who is recovering from a terrible start to his Nets career, had 11 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds to the tune of steady boos. Kyrie Irving had 23 points and Kevin Durant had 20 before coach Jack Vaughn pulled his starting lineup with three minutes left in the game.

The anticipated marquee matchup was dampened by Embiid Harden’s absence due to injury. That means Embiid vs. Simmons will have to wait. But Simmons vs. 76ers fans were pretty good.

The Australian was heckled, drew a flagrant foul, booed the crowd on a layup, and even had a Jordan-shaking thorn after hitting a free throw. Most importantly for a player who has struggled with mental health issues, Simmons played with poise as boos rained down on him for most of his 32 minutes on the court.

He already had three assists early in the game when he went to the free-throw line. Simmons was booed but never looked fazed and sank both baskets. Simmons had a reverse layup minutes later for his first bucket.

Sixers fans were euphoric without being venomous, though there were a few short-lived “Fuck Ben Simmons!” Mantra But they mostly saved the four-letter words for the tape on the back of their old No. 25 jersey.

Simmons said before the game that he expected a hostile reception in Philly. “I can’t help but worry about everybody’s feelings,” Simmons said. “At the end of the day, I’m not here to please everybody.”

Simmons and second-year Sixer Georges Niang scuffled late in the first half, and Niang gave his former teammate a light hard hand that earned a technical foul. Harden couldn’t believe the bench call. Sixers owner Josh Harris looked stunned. Simmons missed a technical free throw and the crowd roared like they had all game. Simmons, however, hit the court for a steal and knocked the loose ball to Durant for a bucket.

It was all jokes, not all games. Simmons made 76ers fans go nuts over him in the second half when he missed consecutive free throws and triggered a free fast-food chicken promotion.

Simmons averaged 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists in four seasons with Philadelphia, who drafted him No. 1 overall out of LSU, where he played just one season. His issues, such as his refusal to shoot beyond 15 feet, outweighed his otherwise gifted defensive and playmaking talents. Simmons’ relationship with the Sixers soured after the 2021 playoffs and he demanded a trade.

Simmons made a surprise return to the Sixers shortly before the start of last season but was immediately ejected from practice and suspended for one game. Punishment doesn’t matter; The number one pick in the 2016 draft had no intention of playing. And he never played for the Sixers again.

Playing against them on Tuesday seemed a lot more fun.

Ben Simmons blew up mercilessly as the Nets lost in his return to Philly

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