It’s a question we may never have the answer to: Who was more excited about Ben Simmons coming back to Philadelphia? player? Or a fan of the 76ers?
His time in Philly didn’t end in the best of ways, as Simmons missed an easy dunk during the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2021 against the Atlanta Hawks, which proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was the last time he would wear his uniform before being traded to the Brooklyn Nets, who traveled down I-95 to face the 76ers on Tuesday night.
Simmons hasn’t had a great time in Brooklyn either. He is back in the swing of NBA life after not seeing the floor after a trade due to a back injury. As he knows all too well, Philadelphia fans are a different breed. They either love you or, you know the other side of it.
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While the Nets played in Philadelphia with Simmons on the team after James Harden’s blockbuster swap last season, he was unable to play due to his injury. So this was the first game where Simmons could suit up against the team that drafted him first overall in 2016.
Before the game, Simmons was seen walking into the crowd taking selfies, signing autographs and talking with mixed Sixers and Nets fans. However, this was just a minority. The majority, loudly, let him listen during the team’s introduction.
When Simmons’ name was called by the public address announcer, he began cursing at his teammates as he scolded them.
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Might be just the fuel Simmons needed. Going back to the previous game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Simmons posted his best game in a Brooklyn jersey, scoring a season-high 22 points on 11-of-13 from the field with eight rebounds, five assists and one steal. This marked the third consecutive game he ended with double-digit points.
Simmons did it again on the Philly hardwood, totaling 11 points along with 11 assists for a double-double and seven rebounds. His first two free throw attempts sent more boos at him, but he hit both, after the second also sent a shrug from the crowd.
However, it was the 76ers who got the last word at the end of the night, as a close battle between the two teams resulted in a 115–106 Philadelphia victory over Brooklyn.
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Along with Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris was the team’s leading scorer with 24 points on 10-for-21 from the floor along with six rebounds and three assists, while D’Anthony Melton had 22 points, including six three-pointers.
For the Nets, Kyrie Irving, who was reinstated last Sunday following his eight-game team suspension, finished with a team-high 23 points, though he went 2-of-8 from three-point land. He shot 10 of 18 with two rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Kevin Durant also finished with 20 points, five boards and five assists.
Philly crowds will get another taste of Simmons and the Nets on January 25, when Brooklyn returns to the City of Brotherly Love.
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For Simmons, there isn’t much love left in his one-time pride and joy for walking around in a Sixers uniform.