The 2021 NBA season that starts today has been preceded by a lot of off-the-court drama. The focus the last few weeks has been on the Brooklyn Nets and whether vaccine-hesitant Kyrie Irving would play any home games, but the Philadelphia 76ers’ ongoing saga involving point guard Ben Simmons has now taken center stage.
Simmons’s offensive play in the first round of last season’s playoffs was strangely cautious, and after the Sixers lost to the Atlanta Hawks — with Simmons opting to not make an easy dunk during a crucial moment — his future in Philadelphia was uncertain. As the beginning of the season approached, it was clear that Simmons wanted out. He decided not to report to training camp and ultimately missed the first two preseason games, resulting in fines and a portion of his salary being withheld by the team.
But Simmons returned to the team two weeks ago, reportedly to the organization’s surprise, and rejoined the 76ers in practice this week after clearing health and safety protocols. (Though he didn’t seem thrilled to be there.) There was talk that Simmons might finally play with the team again during their season opener against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday. But ESPN reported Tuesday that Simmons received a one-game suspension after being thrown out of practice by coach Doc Rivers for not participating in a drill.
Following the incident, Joel Embiid, the team’s center and de facto leader, spoke his mind to the press. When asked if he was disappointed that Simmons hasn’t bought in with what the team was doing, Embiid was blunt — and quickly had Twitter debating comma placement.
“At this point, I don’t care about that, man, honestly.” (Or was it “I don’t care about that man, honestly”?) Embiid continued, “He does whatever he wants. That’s not my job. That’s those guys’ jobs. I’m only focused on trying to make the team better, win some games, play hard every night, try to lead the guys that we have here.”
Embiid says the team’s chemistry has been “excellent” despite the past few months and that the Sixers are just focusing on their path to a championship title.
“At the end of the day, our job is not to babysit somebody. We get paid to produce on the court, go out, play hard, win some games. That’s what we get paid for. We don’t get paid to come out here and try to babysit somebody,” Embiid said. “That’s not our job and I’m sure my teammates feel that way.”