Ahead of Friday night’s home opener against the Nets, Joel Embiid addressed the crowd in attendance at The Center.
It’s customary for a leader of the team to send a message to the fans before the first game, thanking them for their continued supported.
Embiid did that, but also made sure to mention one member of his team that wasn’t in attendance.
“A lot has happened in the last few months,” Embiid said, “and I ask you guys to continue to support us and our teammate Ben [Simmons] because he is still our brother.”
Unsurprisingly, it was met with mild boos.
Without Simmons, the Sixers would go on to lose in brutal fashion to the Brooklyn Nets. They’re now 1-1 on the young season with Simmons not participating in either contest. The three-time All-Star has reported to the team, but still not played game.
He was suspended for the win over the Pelicans for conduct detrimental to the team after being thrown out of practice Tuesday. Ahead of shootaround Friday, Simmons addressed his teammates and told them he was not “mentally ready” to play.
During his pregame availability, Doc Rivers said it was “productive” and “a good start” for Simmons and the team mending their relationship.
Embiid agreed postgame.
“It was good,” Embiid said. “Finally. That was the first time any of us heard him. I thought it was good for the group.”
Tobias Harris echoed Embiid’s thoughts.
“It was good to hear from him,” Harris said. “I think it was well-needed for us as a group, and I think for him as well. To be able to communicate with the guys is well-needed. I think it’s a step in the right direction for bringing him back and getting acclimated along with what we’ve got going here.”
To that point, both players, who are the most prominent leaders on the team, said again that they’d welcome Simmons when and if he wants to rejoin the team.
“That’s the first step, that’s a step,” Embiid said. “Like I always say, that’s on the front office. Hopefully they figure out what’s best for the team, because this is a business. We’re trying to find ways to win. And for us, we have a big opportunity. And like I always say, we are better with him. I wouldn’t mind playing with him. I know my teammates also wouldn’t, because at the end of the day, we’re just trying to win.”
Harris took a few minutes to really go to bat for Simmons and ask for people to acknowledge his teammate as a human being.
“For sure. I think it’s obviously a good start. But, as I said, I think at this time we have to respect his privacy, his space. We’ve got to be there for him throughout what he’s going through and his process. I think it’s easy to look at something on the surface and come to assumptions on a lot of things — especially (with) athletes. In general in this space, you’re depicted as superhumans and not really supposed to have feelings or go through anything. So I think we just really have to understand he’s a human first. If he’s going through something, we have to respect that and we have to be there for him a a team, as an organization, fans — all the way down the line, because when he’s in here putting on a show and helping us get wins, everybody’s cheering and praising. But we live in a ‘What have you done for me lately?’ type of world. And when that’s not the case, it’s easy to turn around. I think at this time, he needs more support than neglect. I think we’ve just got to be there for him as a team. I relayed that to the group and I hope that message is loud and clear to our fans and everybody around the organization. And honestly, you guys as well. As media, you have guys a job as well. And I understand the field that you’re in, but you guys have to understand that we’re talking about a person that has a family, has emotions. He’s a great person, as well. So we’ve got to really respect and don’t do everything for the clicks — for the clickbait. Understand that we’re a team — Philadelphia 76ers, you guys, media — we are team. We win games, it helps your job, makes your job easier. I think we’ve got to look at that as a collective effort as well.”