Ben Simmons’ exit from Philadelphia ended on a sour note. 76ers fans turned on the All-Star point guard as he held out for the first half of the season in search of a new team.
His wish was granted in February as he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in a deal centered around James Harden. Even though Simmons didn’t play when the Nets visited Wells Fargo Center in March, 76ers fans showed how thrilled they were to be rid of the 25-year-old guard by greeting him with a chorus of boos.
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Appearing on JJ Redick’s Old Man & The Three podcast, Embiid discussed how the relationship with Simmons and the rabid fanbase deteriorated over time as frustration brewed over time.
“I think it was more so they didn’t feel like they were heard,” Embiid said. “You know how much they wanted him to shoot the ball, how much they wanted him to be better in their own ways.
“He’s a great basketball player, he does so much stuff on the basketball court that people should pay attention [to], but they also felt like, from Year 1 to whatever year that was for him, they didn’t see any improvement. I think that’s the way I kind of understand [it]. Because even when you look back at all the years, like, what was the biggest thing they wanted him to do? Shoot 3s or free throws or whatever that was — shooting in general.
“I think they just felt like it had been so long and there was no changes. I think that’s what kind of started the whole thing about everybody being mad and all that stuff.”
Simmons’ lack of shooting wore thin with the fanbase and was exacerbated by the poor fit on court alongside MVP contender Joel Embiid. In their four years together, the duo failed to make it beyond the second round of the playoffs.
While things eventually went south, Embiid believes Simmons did his part in taking on the responsibility of being a star in Philly and “embraced” the city.
“I felt like — I think he embraced them,” Embiid told Reddick. “I don’t know if they felt like it was genuine or whatever. But I feel like he embraced them.”
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The 76ers fanbase isn’t shy in letting their feelings known and Embiid says that passion helps drive him on the court. The 28-year-old is currently enjoying his best season in the league as the franchise’s cornerstone, averaging a career-high 29.9 points per game, 11.4 rebounds, and 4.3 assists.
“Playing here is tough, but that’s what I love about them,” Embiid said. “I wouldn’t want to play in a city where, first of all there’s nobody at games or they come to the game and have no idea what’s going on.
“But in Philly….they’re just so in tune with everything that’s going on with the team, and that’s what I love about them. They’re so intense, and like you [Redick] said, I got booed a few times. But my response has always been I kind of took it as a positive, because I felt like if I was in that situation, that must mean I’m not playing well or I’m not playing hard.
“So I always took it as ‘Okay, I gotta change it. I gotta play better. I gotta play harder. I gotta make sure I do whatever is necessary for us to win games.’ So that’s the way I always looked at it. But like I said: I love Philly fans, man. You played for a bunch of teams since you left [the Sixers] and I’m sure there’s no fans like Philly.”
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Simmons is currently sidelined with a back injury and is yet to make his debut in a Nets uniform. The Nets are currently fighting to make the postseason, sitting eighth in the East and will have to qualify via the Play-In Tournament, potentially setting up a first round series against the 76ers.
The 76ers are currently 46-29 in the third seed, locked in a tight battle with the Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics at the top of the conference.