Joel Embiid on Ben Simmons’ absence: It’s ‘borderline kind of disrespectful’
Embiid gave a candid, wide-ranging answer that lasted more than four minutes when asked about a report that the on-court partnership between him and Simmons has “run its course.”
Joel Embiid reiterated Thursday that he is disappointed the Ben Simmons saga reached this point, then called it “borderline kind of disrespectful” to teammates that the 76ers’ disgruntled point guard has not yet reported for training camp while also expressing hope that Simmons will return to the team.
Speaking for the first time following a training-camp practice, Embiid gave a candid, wide-ranging answer that lasted for more than four minutes when The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey asked about a report from The Athletic that Simmons believes their on-court partnership has “run its course.”
“The situation is weird, disappointing, borderline kind of disrespectful to other guys that are out here fighting for their lives,” Embiid said. “Some guys rely on the team to be successful to stay in the league and make money somehow. Because if you’re on a winning team, you’re always gonna have a spot in the league, just because you’re on a winning team and you contributed ...
“We are a better team with him. There’s no question about it. We still hope that he changes his mind [and rejoins the team], but I kind of owe it to these guys to just worry about what we have here. That’s the front office’s job to kind of figure it out, what’s gonna happen. That’s not my job. I’m not the GM. I’m not the owner. So that’s none of my business, honestly.”
Embiid first addressed the Simmons situation at length during Monday’s media day, pausing for several seconds before saying “I’m disappointed” that Simmons has demanded a trade, opted not to come to camp, and vowed to never play in Philly again. Embiid also said he did not regret his postgame comments that Simmons passing up an open dunk was the turning point of a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
But Embiid added he still wanted to reunite with his All-Star teammate who helped lead the Sixers to the best regular-season record in the Eastern Conference last season. Other Sixers players, coach Doc Rivers and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey echoed that sentiment on Monday.
The following day, the report came out. There have long been questions about the on-court — and personality — fit of Embiid, a truly dominant center on both ends of the floor, and Simmons, an elite defender who on offense needs lanes to get to the basket and is reluctant to shoot.
It was clear Embiid had emerged as the franchise cornerstone when he put together an MVP-caliber season in 2020-21, a commitment that was reciprocated by the Sixers when they signed him to a super-max extension in August. Simmons, meanwhile, rapidly fell out of favor with the a passionate Philly fanbase after faltering down the stretch in the playoffs, closing a personally tumultuous season that also saw him in trade talks for James Harden.
Embiid also raised Thursday that team fit is not just about him and Simmons.
The center highlighted the abundance of outside shooting the Sixers added to the roster as support for its two best players, from Danny Green and Seth Curry, to Tobias Harris and Furkan Korkmaz, to newcomer stretch-big Georges Niang. Embiid touched on his ability to step out to the three-point line, " … which I don’t mind. I like to be a basketball player. I like to do everything on the basketball court.”
Embiid also rehashed Sixers decisions that let Jimmy Butler leave to join the Miami Heat and sign Al Horford before the 2019-20 season, “which I still think … was a mistake,” Embiid said. That decision was made, according to Embiid, “just to make sure that [Simmons] needed the ball in his hands.”
“We’ve always had shooters, and I feel like I can really play with anybody and I can make anybody be better on the court,” Embiid said. " … Our teams have always been built around his needs, so it was kind of surprising to see what was said.”