Joel Embiid Reveals Why Ben Simmons Rubbed 76ers Fans the Wrong Way: ‘I Kind of Understand’

The Philadelphia 76ers had a drama-filled offseason and start to the 2021 NBA season. Most of it pertained to disgruntled All-Star Ben Simmons and his murky status with the organization. After a disappointing finish to the playoffs, Simmons fell out of favor with the fans. As a result, Joel Embiid fielded nonstop questions about his running mate’s future.

While many Sixers fans seemingly gave up on Simmons, they fully embraced Embiid. The 28-year-old big man is the unquestioned leader and face of the franchise. Philadelphia shipped Simmons to the Brooklyn Nets, effectively ending that part of the process.

With the former No. 1 overall pick now gone, Embiid has a theory about why the fans turned on Simmons.

Joel Embiid opens up on why 76ers fans lost patience with Ben Simmons

When the Philadelphia 76ers paired Ben Simmons with Joel Embiid, it appeared that the franchise’s future was in great hands. Both players entered the NBA with plenty of hype, especially Simmons. The duo played four seasons together, making the playoffs in each.

The Sixers continuously failed to get over the hump. Doc Rivers’ squad finished No. 1 in the Eastern Conference in 2020 but fell to the Atlanta Hawks in the conference semifinals. Simmons had a series to forget and came up small in multiple big moments.

Simmons’ lackluster performance appeared to be the last straw for 76ers fans. In a recent appearance on The Old Man and the Three, Joel Embiid spoke with former teammate J.J. Redick about why the fans had enough of Simmons.

“I think it was more so they didn’t feel like that would hurt,” said Embiid. “You know how much they wanted him to shoot the ball, how much they wanted him to be better. They also felt like from year one to whatever year that was for him, they didn’t see any improvement. That’s the way, I kind of understand.”

“When you look back at all the years, what was the biggest thing they wanted him to do? Shoot threes or free throws. Shooting in general. I think they felt he had been so long, and there was no changes.”

The MVP candidate still speaks highly of his former teammate as a player

76ers center Joel Embiid runs down the court during game; Ben Simmons looks on during Nets game
Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers in action against the Milwaukee Bucks | Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images; Ben Simmons of the Brooklyn Nets on the sideline during game against the Detroit Pistons | Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Even though things didn’t work out between Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in Philadelphia, the 76ers center isn’t harboring ill will toward his former teammate (at least, not publicly).

Simmons undoubtedly folded under the pressure during the playoffs. However, Embiid still believes the new Nets star has a bright future in the NBA.

“He’s a great basketball player,” said Embiid. “He does so much stuff on the basketball court that people should pay attention.”

The three-time All-NBA selection also believes Simmons embraced the city of Philadelphia as much as he could, contrary to popular belief.

“I think he embraced them,” Embiid added. “I don’t know if they felt like he was genuine or whatever. But I feel like he embraced them.

Ben Simmons undoubtedly grew as a defensive player since entering the league. Perhaps, if he showed an effort to work on his jump shooting, he’d still be a member of the 76ers.

Philadelphia must make noise in the playoffs after the early-season drama

The 76ers made headlines throughout the offseason, thanks to the Ben Simmons saga. The two-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection seemingly wanted out of Philadelphia. Coincidentally, James Harden grew frustrated with being in Brooklyn. General manager Daryl Morey struck a deal with the Nets to exchange the two stars.

The Sixers looked good early in the post-Simmons era. Harden and Joel Embiid quickly developed chemistry. However, the momentum has since fizzled. It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for Philadelphia. Embiid has continued to play like an MVP candidate, while Harden hasn’t played like the elite talent many expect him to be.

Beyond Harden’s inconsistency, cracks in the roster are starting to show. The 76ers gave up a lot in the trade. Seth Curry and Andre Drummond were key role players, and now they’re thriving in Brooklyn.

This was the move Philadelphia wanted, though. The pressure is on for Doc Rivers and company. They’re currently the fourth seed in the East. However, if they play like they have, a first-round exit wouldn’t be far-fetched. If that happen, the entire team will be on the hot seat with the Philadelphia fans.

All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference

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