PHILADELPHIA — Whether it’s shutdown, recovery or something else, Ben Simmons finally got it Thursday in Philadelphia. And now he can continue his career in Brooklyn.
When Simmons returned to the City of Brotherly Love, the hatred started early, ran deep, and never stopped. But while 76ers fans will never forgive or forget how he left, now he’s finally put them in the rearview mirror and his Nets time in the center of attention.
“He looked good to me. He looked happy to be here,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “I think he was happy to get rid of him.”
Many predicted that the always sidelined Simmons – who has been open about his mental health struggles – wouldn’t have the guts to join his new Nets teammates and sit on the visitors’ bench, taking anger rejected Sixers fans. But that’s exactly what he did, taking their bile from morning until the end of the game.
And maybe he saw that it wasn’t so deadly after all.
While the Nets have more drama than a season of “The Bachelor,” it may not go away completely. Perhaps Thursday’s blowout win was a learning milestone in management, for them and for Simmons.
“I don’t think it’s going to go away, really, all the noise around our team,” Kyrie Irving said with a laugh. “But it’s a lot of fun. Like we talked about, we just want to stay on par with that. The noise will continue, but we just have that focus, but no fear. Just play for free, and go ahead and do your work and we will be there to support each other. So it feels good when we do that.
The Nets were with Simmons, rallying around him.
First, the 76ers made him a scapegoat for last year’s playoff ouster. Then, after his business request, a villain. Thursday, they made him a rallying cry for the Nets, a motivator even from the bench.
“Most definitely,” Kevin Durant said. “We see Ben as our brother, so we knew it was a hostile environment and we knew he didn’t get the chance to play, so we wanted to come in and get them focused on the pitch more than ever. focusing on him. So they focused on the pitch tonight, and it’s hard for you to sing to Ben Simmons when you’re losing so much.
Simmons – who isn’t likely to do a full five-on-five practice on Saturday, a source says – can have peace of mind as he weathers the vitriol from his former side’s fans. Brooklyn’s blowout on Thursday against the 76ers and James Harden — the man he was traded for a month ago on Thursday — just made it sweeter.
Simmons had started the morning by being accosted by 76ers fans outside the Nets’ team hotel, cursed and mocked. One even ran towards him and had to be stopped by team security. And from pre-game warm-ups to much of the night, he heard chants of “F–k Ben Simmons!”
Here’s the thing. He survived.
It was a far cry from the kind of vitriol Kevin Durant endured upon his return to Oklahoma City. No beers thrown at your head like Kyrie Irving last year in Boston.
Just words and sticks and stones and all that.
“I think playing for Ben and tonight means something to Ben – and not just Ben – [Andre Drummond]Seth [Curry] — when you’re traded to this league, it’s not easy to deal with,” Irving said. “We tried to welcome them with open arms. So when we played [the 76ers] we definitely felt like Ben was in our hearts, you could see that.
“He wore it and we just wanted to go out there and play for him and play well. But again, it’s not an individual thing for us. We all felt it. We’re all there. We deal all. If you come to Ben, you come to us. You come to anybody else on our team, you come to all of us. And that’s the mentality.
New York Post