The Philadelphia 76ers believed that the All-Star duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons was enough to reach the top of the NBA mountain. But after last season’s shocking playoff exit, it became evident that changes were necessary for all parties.
Following trade requests and a several-month holdout, Simmons was dealt to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for superstar James Harden. Not only are he and Embiid are no longer teammates, but the two former friends are now division foes in a loaded Eastern Conference.
During a recent appearance on The Draymond Green Show, the Process explained his side of the Simmons breakup. However, the big man missed the mark when explaining why his former point guard wanted to leave Philly.
Joel Embiid threw Ben Simmons under the bus after the 76ers’ Game 7 loss
The Sixers had an impressive 2020-21 season, earning the top seed in the East with a 49-23 record. After cruising past the Washington Wizards in the opening round, all they needed to do was beat Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks to advance to their first Eastern Conference Final since 2001.
What transpired next was an unfortunate turn of events, particularly for Simmons. The 2016 top pick faded to the background over the course of the series, averaging 9.9 points in 34.5 minutes. But he was at his worst in big moments, taking three field-goal attempts between all seven fourth quarters.
The worst moment Simmons had came when he opted to pass out of a wide-open dunk that would’ve tied Game 7 with 3:29 left to play. Atlanta would win the game 103-96, sending the Sixers home early yet again.
Following the Game 7 loss, Embiid didn’t do his teammate any favors.
“I’ll be honest. I thought the turning point was when we — I don’t how to say it — but I thought the turning point was [when] we had an open shot and, you know, we made one free throw, and we missed the other, and they came down and scored,” Embiid told the media during his postgame presser. ” But, uh, I thought that was the turning point.”
Embiid had 31 points and 11 rebounds in Game 7, while Simmons finished with five points. It was the last time the two young stars would share a court together as teammates.
Embiid doesn’t believe his comments had anything to do with Simmons wanting out
Shortly after the dramatic Game 7 defeat, it became increasingly apparent that Simmons’ time with the 76ers was up. The three-time All-Star held out in hopes of a trade before sitting out the entirety of the season due to mental health concerns.
As Ben inches toward his Nets debut, Embiid told his side of the story on The Draymond Green Show. But rather surprisingly, the MVP candidate wasn’t sure what led to Simmons wanting out.
“I didn’t understand what happened, what lead to that whole situation,” Embiid said to Green. “To this day, I don’t understand. … I understand his explanation, but a lot of things don’t make sense.”
Green then asked his All-Star counterpart if he feels his comments after Game 7 had anything to do with the exit.
“I don’t think it did. You’re a member of the media and this is what you just mentioned, that they’re always going to try to pick up little stuff just to cause controversy and all that stuff. If you look at the whole press conference, they asked me a question. ‘What happened? What caused this loss?’ And then I literally mentioned a bunch of events that happened. I mentioned where it really started. And you know, I was being honest.”Joel Embiid
“I said what I wanted to say,” Embiid added. “I’m not gonna hold myself just because I gotta make people feel better. And I feel like I didn’t hurt anybody’s feelings.”
It’s obvious that Embiid’s comments had something to do with Simmons’ eventual exit
It’s hard to disagree with Embiid’s overall sentiment. Simmons’ failed dunk attempt was the turning point in Game 7. But the Process claiming that he doesn’t know why his ex-teammate wanted out is beyond tone deaf.
Simmons became a national laughing stock after his humiliating playoff performance. Sixers fans were already giving him a rough time. Now add Embiid, the team’s top player, pinpointing his specific dunk flub as the beginning of the end.
There’s also Embiid’s quote from back in training camp. The star center was asked by NBC Sports Philadelphia about Simmons’ absence, to which the 7-footer responded, “I don’t care about that man.”
Gee, why did Simmons want to leave?
There are many things Simmons should have done differently. But Embiid’s words and actions right after the playoff loss and in the months that followed certainly played a role in the guard feeling unfit to take the court in 2021-22. Either Embiid realizes that and is clearly lying, or he truly has no self-awareness whatsoever.
For what it’s worth, the two stars didn’t acknowledge each other when the Nets and Sixers played a few days ago in Philadelphia. Needless to say, a playoff series between the two is on every basketball fan’s wishlist.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.