The Philadelphia 76ers Couldn’t Care Less About the Drama Surrounding Ben Simmons’ Return: ‘This Is Not Seventh or Eighth Grade’

After a long and drawn-out circus of an offseason, Ben Simmons is officially back with the Philadelphia 76ers organization. When he makes his season debut has yet to be determined, but his teammates are committed to downplaying the drama.

It might be easy for Joel Embiid and others to display a sense of agitation or frustration, considering Simmons demanded a trade and questioned his fit with this Sixers team. However, Doc Rivers and Co. are adamant about going forward and focusing on the season.

Ben Simmons practiced with the 76ers for the first time on Sunday

Earlier in the offseason, it seemed like a guarantee that Ben Simmons would not be with the 76ers at the start of the 2021-22 campaign. While Daryl Morey might still canvass the rest of the NBA for trade opportunities, it suddenly feels like a certainty that the polarizing point guard will open the new season with the team that drafted him.

Despite prior trade requests, Simmons reported to Sixers camp last week. He passed an initial physical and took another step on Sunday, joining teammates for practice. Simmons participated in the session closed to the media and has yet to speak with reporters since returning to Philadelphia.

Rivers said it remains to be seen when the 25-year-old will make his debut, as the 76ers hope to get Simmons back up to speed in terms of conditioning. Will it take time for Simmons to regain the faith of his teammates and find synergy with the Sixers on the floor? Maybe, but the rest of the roster is trying to be professional about his return.

Tobias Harris and others downplayed the drama regarding Simmons’ return to the court

There were times this offseason when the dynamic between Ben Simmons and the 76ers resembled the slow burn of a middle-school breakup. However, with Simmons back, Tobias Harris and the rest of his teammates are committed to avoiding petty drama.

Harris was among those asked for his reactions to Simmons’ return to the floor. At first, he smirked gave a sort of snide “Everything was fine” answer. The statement came dripping with sarcasm. Yet Harris also plainly stated (h/t Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Times) that the Sixers would take things in stride.

“We’re grown men here. This is not seventh or eighth grade.”

–76ers forward Tobias Harris when asked about the players’ reaction to Ben Simmons’ return

Harris said he never asked Simmons why he chose to return. Some players appeared indifferent about the subject. But others expressed excitement at Simmons rejoining the fray.

Sixers forward Furkan Korkmaz said he “missed” Simmons, per Moore, and said the familiarity the rest of the roster has with Simmons could benefit Philly this season. He noted this roster is pretty similar to last season’s group, which finished first in the Eastern Conference.

The 76ers are moving forward. Will Simmons move forward as well?

What version of Simmons will the 76ers get this season?

L-R: Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers talk during a game in April
Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers stand on the court during the second quarter of an NBA game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center on April 09, 2021, in New Orleans, Louisiana | Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Ben Simmons could go about his return in a variety of fashions.

Simmons may be back so that he won’t miss out on game checks. There are some questions about his vaccination status, which could further cloud his immediate availability and trade value.

Alternatively, Simmons could choose to look past the drama and commit to being a winning player for a 76ers team that, when he is right, remains one of the toughest teams in the NBA. For all his deficiencies, Simmons has made three straight All-Star teams and is arguably the best perimeter defender in the NBA. He makes Philly better in the short term.

The 76ers might be faced with chemistry and fit questions in the near future. For now, though, they are trying to minimize the noise surrounding Simmons’ return.

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