Goalkeeper Ben Simmons breaks silence about Joel Embiid affair, returns to Philadelphia

Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons was asked on Tuesday if Joel Embiid’s absence from his upcoming return to Philadelphia dampens the hype surrounding the game.

“The fans will make up for it.” he answered laughing. “I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be fun.”

Simmons will take the floor at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday for the first time since the Sixers’ Game 7 loss to Atlanta in the 2021 playoffs. The three-time All-Stars scored just five points in that game, after which head coach Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid took jabs at him. Simmons’ departure from The City of Brotherly Love proved hostile last year, as the former first baseman played in the first 54 games of the season before being traded to the Nets for James Harden.

Simmons has found his stride in Brooklyn’s last three games after struggling early, averaging 16.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists on 22-of-26 (84.6 percent) shooting during the period. Ex-Philadelphia Sixer appeared off the bench for the Nets during their 129-100 win last March. He didn’t play, but the Boo Birds were flying in full force, and even a group of fans were waiting outside a Brooklyn hotel to heckle ex-Sixir on his way to the bus.

Seth Curry, who came to Brooklyn with Ben Simmons in the Harden trade, said he expects fans to bring similar energy this time around.

“It’s going to be a hostile environment for Ben,” Carey said. “I mean, Philly fans are excited. I’m sure they’ve got a few things they want to get off the ground when Ben is on Earth.”

Simmons said Tuesday’s game represented a unique opportunity for him to re-acclimate after a year out.

“I’m so excited to play. I can’t wait, it’s going to be fun.” “It’s going to be an opportunity for me, you know, I’ve never been in that situation before, so I have to appreciate it and take full advantage of it.”

He continued, “Every match is an obstacle for me.” “You know, in terms of just building and coming back from injury, and then being out of the game for a year. So I take it day in and day out, that’s what I’ve been saying.”

Simmons earned a long list of accolades during his four years with the 76ers. Despite his troubled relationship with his fan base, the Australian said he has fond memories of the city.

“I had a lot of great moments,” said Simmons. “Lots of ups and downs. That’s where I became a man I feel, so I’ve always had a lot of respect for Philly that way. And the fanbase. You know, it’s a special fanbase. But I have a lot of love for Philly.”

James Harden and Therese Maxey will also miss Tuesday’s 76s, but with Simmons playing at the Brooklyn center, Embiid’s absence looms large. The 28-year-old has continued his form since last season, averaging 32.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 12 games this year.

Despite past issues, Simmons paid tribute to his time as an Embiid Fellow.

“We had a lot of highlights, and we had a lot of great times,” said Ben Simmons. “I have a lot of love for Joel too. It obviously didn’t work out, but that’s life and not everything works out for you. So I wish him the best, obviously not heroic against us, but the best.”

The duo’s relationship appeared to reach a boiling point after Simmons passed an infamous open dunk in the fourth quarter of a Game 7 loss to Atlanta, with Embiid signaling the play after the game.

“I mean, I’ll be honest. I thought the turning point was when — I don’t know how to say it — but I thought the turning point was we got an open shot and we did one free throw and we missed the other and then they went down and scored,” Embiid said.

Simmons appeared on The Old Man and the Three podcast with JJ Redick prior to this season. He said the fallout from the Atlanta series added to the issues he was already dealing with and he agreed that Rivers and Embiid threw him under the bus following game seven.

“I already deal with a lot in life like a lot of people do, but it got to a point where after that series, I get it from people who you’re supposed to get that support or that comfort in,” Simmons said. “I didn’t have any energy for anything. -I was in a dark place. Everyone goes through different struggles, some bigger than others, but everyone has their own fights and I think that was hard for me, just because I didn’t have that support from my teammates.”

Despite his kind words about Embiid Tuesday, Simmons said he had not spoken to his former teammate.

“You’re not nice to everyone,” he said of their lack of a relationship. “You know, you don’t text everyone. I think there are just certain people you don’t talk to all the time.”

Simmons was asked if he would speak to Embiid before or after the match.

He replied sarcastically, “Yes, we’ll do our secret handshake.”

Despite a slew of injuries, Philadelphia comes into Tuesday at 8-8 after winning three of its last four. Brooklyn is sitting at 8-9 after two straight wins. Simmons’ recent success provided a silver lining to a dysfunctional Nets team to start the season.

The former All-Star appears to be gradually returning to his old physical self after off-season back surgery and a knee ailment early this year. While the wild crowd in Philadelphia presents a new challenge, Simmons said his approach won’t change as he looks to continue building on recent success.

“Staying aggressive, pushing the ball, finding my mates, and then, just being honestly relentless,” Ben Simmons noted as areas he remains focused on. “Just stay on the offensive the whole game.”

“Just pay every day. Whether I’m having a bad game or a good game, just know I’m building,” he continued. “Doing those little plays and continuing to build on what I’ve been doing. You see the last few games getting closer and closer, but I have to keep going.”

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