The Philadelphia 76ers became the center of controversy during the 2021 NBA offseason. After they got eliminated in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, the relationship between Ben Simmons and the Sixers turned sour, especially after the former No. 1 pick took most of the blame for their inability to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. The drama continued in the first half of the 2021-22 NBA season when Simmons refused to rejoin the team despite being 100 percent healthy.
Luckily, hours before the 2022 NBA trade deadline, the Sixers found a way to get rid of Simmons by sending him to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for All-Star shooting guard James Harden.
Joel Embiid On Ben Simmons' Departure
Joel Embiid was one of the people inside the Sixers' organization who made substantial efforts to convince Simmons to stay in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, Embiid failed to persuade Simmons as the former No. 1 pick was determined to leave the Sixers and start a new journey somewhere else. As of now, Embiid said that he's happy that the Simmons saga has finally come to an end.
"I mean, even before the game, I was already tired of all that drama and all that stuff. I didn't think it was warranted," Embiid said via Sixers Wire. "I just wanted to really get it over with. I wasn't into it at all. I just want to play basketball and try to win the basketball game we were playing in."
Sixers Hit Two Birds With One Stone
Trading Simmons to the Nets was a no-brainer for the Sixers as it enabled them to hit two birds with one stone. Aside from putting an end to Simmons's drama, they also managed to acquire one of the dream targets on the trade market in Harden. After successfully pairing Embiid with Harden, the Sixers immediately became heavy favorites to fully dominate the Eastern Conference and win the NBA championship title in the 2021-22 NBA season.
Sixers Lost In Ben Simmons' Return To Philly
Thursday night's game featured the first time the Sixers and the Nets faced each other since they engaged in a blockbuster trade involving Simmons and Harden. Though he traveled with the Nets to Philadelphia, Simmons chose not to play. However, despite his absence on the court, the Nets still managed to defeat the Sixers.
Both Embiid and Harden were noticeably struggling to find their rhythm in their blowout loss to the Nets. Though he finished the game with 27 points, 12 rebounds, and one block, Embiid only shot 5-of-17 from the field. Meanwhile, Harden only posted 11 points while shooting 17.6 percent from the field.
Kevin Durant Taunts Ben Simmons' Hecklers
Simmons' return to the City of Brotherly Love didn't go smoothly. Though he didn't play, the Sixers fans were booing Simmons during warmup. However, the crowd was surprisingly quiet in most of the game, especially after the Nets took control early. After the blowout victory over the Sixers, Kevin Durant expressed his support towards Simmons and taunted his hecklers.
"We look at Ben as our brother, so we knew that this was a hostile environment, and we knew that he didn't have the opportunity to play," Durant said. "So, we wanted to come out there and have them focus on the court more so than just always focusing on him. So, they focused on the court tonight, and it's hard for you to chant at Ben Simmons when you're losing by that much."