PHILADELPHIA – Following Ben Simmons’ meeting with his teammates and their first speech since his failure, 76ers forward Tobias Harris passionately defended Simmons after Philadelphia’s 114-109 loss to the Brooklyn Nets Friday night.
“I think it’s obviously a good start,” said Harris. “But like I said, right now we have to respect his privacy, his space, and we have to be there for him, with what he’s going through and this process.
“It’s easy to look at something on the surface and come up with speculation about a lot of things, especially athletes – usually in this space we’re portrayed as superhumans, and you’re not really meant to have feelings or experiencing anything so I think we have to first understand that he’s a human being, and if he goes through something sometimes we have to respect him and go through him as a team, organization, fans, all the way down the line.
“Because when he’s here to do a show and help us win victories, everyone’s cheering and praising, but we’re living in a ‘What have you been doing for me lately?’ type world, but when it isn’t, it’s easy to turn around. So right now he needs more support. I just think we have to be there for him as a team, and I relayed that to the group. And I hope the message is loud and clear to the fans and everyone around the organization, and honestly, you too. “
Sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski earlier Friday that Simmons was planning to meet with medical professionals for an assessment after telling the team on Friday that he was not mentally ready to meet his expectations and that ‘he needed time to get away.
Simmons separately met with coach Doc Rivers, medical staff and teammates on Friday morning at the team’s premises in Camden, New Jersey, and began a process that should continue to prevent him from making his season debut. , sources said.
After letting the team’s medical staff know why he needed to seek help, the Sixers continued to offer Simmons all the resources he needed to help him, sources said.
The Sixers fined Simmons for missing games, practices and meetings – nearly $ 2 million this season – but there is a provision in the collective agreement that protects player salaries for failing to return services “if such a failure was caused by the mental handicap of the player.”
Harris had tweeted in favor of Simmons, who had been kicked out of the game for personal reasons, stating in part, “When he’s ready we’ll embrace our brother with love and run our business on the pitch.”
It was a similar message from center 76ers superstar Joel Embiid. Before the game, in his speech to fans stuck at Wells Fargo Center for the Philadelphia home opener, Embiid asked them to continue supporting Simmons.
“It’s good to see you again! Embiid said, receiving another roar from the worshiping crowd after waiting for a loud chorus of “MVP!” sing to turn off before starting to speak.
“On behalf of my teammates, the organization and myself, I just want to thank you for your support over all these years,” he said. “A lot has happened in the last few months and I hope you will continue to support us and our teammate Ben as he is still our brother. Let’s go!”
He relayed a similar message – if not tinged with a little frustration over how long it took the team to finally hear from Simmons – to the media after the game.
“It was good, well, it was the first time either of us had heard it,” Embiid said. “I thought it was good for the band.”
“Oh yeah,” he continued, when asked if he thinks things could continue to move in the right direction with Simmons. “It’s a first step. It’s a start. I hope you know, like I’ve always said, it’s on the front office. I hope they find what’s best, obviously for the team because it’s a business, we try to find ways to win and for us we have a big opportunity and like i always said we are better with him.
“I wouldn’t mind playing with him, I know my teammates wouldn’t because at the end of the day we’re just trying to win.”
Considering all the drama that surrounded Simmons in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals – the last game played in this building that mattered before Friday night’s loss, which had an equally ugly ending – he didn’t It was no surprise that the 76ers were doing all they could to speak positively about Friday’s events.
Simmons still hasn’t spoken to the media since he ended his wait to start training camp last week. He returned to training on Sunday, after spending several days completing his re-entry protocols in accordance with league health and safety protocols. He also trained on Monday, but was then excluded from Tuesday’s practice by Rivers and suspended for Wednesday’s season opener in New Orleans.
Ahead of Friday’s game, Rivers – who also presented the day as a positive step forward – went out of her way to avoid putting some sort of timeline on how things are going to play out.
“I felt great, top to bottom, all the way through, and I kept telling you that,” Rivers said. “Things change. It still doesn’t mean that, you know, it’s gonna work perfectly. Or it might. I’ve always believed that. I’ve never deviated from that. I’ve said it a hundred times, and I still stick to it. “
During the Sixers’ pre-game hype video, Simmons was briefly shown onscreen four times, including throwing a pair of dunks.
Philadelphia also avoided the potential embarrassment of having to sort out Simmons’ predicament by presenting only the starting five. Usually, before a team’s home opener, the entire roster is presented. But by presenting only the starters – and with Simmons not playing – the problem of how to deal with his predicament and the potential boos that would have followed the announcement of his name were avoided.
However, there were a lot of boos over how the game ended, with the 76ers failing to make a single basket during the 5:33 final of the fourth quarter, allowing the Nets to continue on a streak of 16-1 to end the match and come back for the win.
“The ball has stopped moving,” Rivers said. “Something we really worked our butt on, and it was disappointing to see. I thought we started getting the ball back to the floor, and then there were a couple of games where we didn’t perform. the things we’ve been working on. So the good sign for me is how well we’ve played. The bad sign for me is that we can’t end games that way. “