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The NBA world (and 76ers fans in particular) are counting down the days until Ben Simmons returns to Philadelphia. The hype has died down on the Sixers’ injury tally as Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey will each miss time with foot injuries. Regardless, the number one overall winner of 2016 is ready to step in front of his former fans and take the pitch for the first time. While he’s joked quite a bit publicly about the matchup, Simmons will have a difficult task in front of the hostile crowd.
He did his media rounds during the shoot this morning and was peppered with various questions. One topic reporters dug for was his expectations of being back in the building with Embiid. Simmons revealed they haven’t spoken, explaining, “We’ve had a lot of great times, you know, I have a lot of love for Jo too. Obviously it didn’t work out, but that’s life, not everything goes in your favor. I wish him the best, of course not a championship against us, but the best.”
Simmons was further urged not to keep in touch with Embiid. The Nets standout left Philadelphia in poor conditions after his trade call and holdout. Simmons tried to downplay it, saying, “You’re not cool with everyone, you know? You don’t text everyone, I think there are certain people you just don’t talk to all the time. You know, I have friends that I don’t talk to all the time, but we’re still cool. That’s how life went.”
More than anyone else, Embiid seemed to take Simmons’ departure personally – which is understandable given the pair’s history. The duo was the sole result of “The Process” and pivotal in turning the Sixers franchise. They spent four seasons together with the Sixers, who went 195-86 as a team during that stretch.
Following Simmons’ decision to persevere, Embiid was asked what his message would be to the LSU product. Speaking in front of the cameras during the Sixers media day, Embiid said: “Honestly I’d say I’m disappointed… I have to get better – everyone has to get better. In the regular season we were so good and so dominant. We know it works. I think it’s about taking the next step and everyone fulfilling their potential… I hope you know he’s really changing his mind. If I didn’t enjoy playing with him, I’ll be honest and I’ll say so. I love playing with him because he enriches our team so much. We built this thing around us. I don’t see it as “This is my team”. I don’t care about any of that,” said Sports Illustrated’s Justin Grasso.
The duo never seemed to fully function during their time together, on or off the pitch. Embiid’s post dominance didn’t sit well with Simmons’ fast transitioning playstyle and shooting errors. They’ve accomplished a lot together on the pitch and produced some exciting Sixers seasons over the four years.
Embiid is also catching a lot of heat for Simmons’ exit from the organization. The relationship seemed to fall apart completely after the post-season loss to the Hawks, in which Simmons notoriously missed the open dunk.
Following the game, Embiid was asked about the turning point of the game and pointed out this sequence. Many assumed he threw it under the bus as the short clip made its way through social media. Doc Rivers didn’t help the case by replying “I don’t know” when reporters asked if Simmons could become point guard on a championship team after the loss.
However, the full quote isn’t as bad as it’s portrayed. As Embiid put it: “I thought the turning point would be easy, you know, we had an open shot and then we took a free throw and missed the other. Then they came down and scored and we didn’t have good possession at the other end and Trae (Young) came back and did a three and from there a four point loss. And then I go and it’s up to me that I turned the ball over. I was trying to make a difference from the periphery. But I thought that was the turning point.”
It’s anticlimactic for Simmons to return without Embiid facing him. The teammates-turned-foes matchup will have to wait for next time as the Sixers superstar suffered a sprained ankle during the loss to the Jazz. Simmons is sure to be booed and jeered at by Philly fans, but this isn’t the must-attend match that was once expected.
Ben Simmons opens up about relationship with Joel Embiid
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