All games may count the same in the win and loss column, but some mean more to each player. One of these games that guys have circled on their calendars is set for tomorrow night as the Philadelphia 76ers will face off with the Brooklyn Nets. This will be Ben Simmons’ first return to Philadelphia since taking the court for the Nets. The three-time All-Star was asked about the matchup when speaking to the media following the team’s previous victory over the Grizzlies. The reporter asked if Simmons thought there was a chance the fans could be more forgiving than he expected which Simmons immediately shut down and replied, “In Philly? C’mon now, I know what’s coming.”
This is one of the rare instances of Simmons showing some personality and letting his guard down to the media. It also came after his best performance of the season in which he tallied 22 points, eight rebounds, and five assists.
Simmons is Right to Expect Boos
Simmons is plenty familiar with Philadelphia fans from his four seasons with the team. He is right to be expecting boos as plenty of Sixers fans have been waiting for the opportunity to give him a piece of their mind following last year’s holdout and trade demand. The former number-one overall pick made his first return to the city last season with the Nets but did not suit up in the matchup. Simmons was showered with boos from the crowd as he sat on the bench. The Nets cruised to a 129-100 victory in which they shot 56% from the field compared to the Sixers’ 32.3%.
This on-court return to Philadelphia has been one Simmons acknowledged he has been looking forward to in the past. During an interview with ESPN’s Nick Friedell that was published on October 14th, Simmons expressed this sentiment in detail. As he stated, “I can’t wait to go there, yeah. But for me, everything’s an experience and a learning situation. So for me I’m able to learn something that I’ve never been through before. I’ve never been traded and played against a team that I got traded from. Kev has, Ky has, a lot of guys have, but I’ve never been in that situation so — you have to go through it. Ky went back to Boston, and he didn’t play well, but it’s a lot. We’re people, too. We want to go out there and prove everyone wrong.”
Joel Embiid Downplays Matchup
In contrast, Joel Embiid has done his best to downplay the hype surrounding the matchup. Following the Sixers’ most recent loss to the Timberwolves, Embiid was asked about facing the Nets. As the superstar replied, “It’s another game on the schedule. I don’t know those guys, I have nothing against those guys. It’s Brooklyn against Philly. Hopefully I feel better for that game. It’s the same goal- try to go out and win,” per Sixers PR.
As Embiid referenced in his comments, he has battled a variety of injuries to start the season. After seeming to overcome the plantar fasciitis and illness issues that plagued him to start the season, he suffered a scary-looking ankle injury in the most recent loss. Embiid toughed it out for the remainder of the matchup and was crucial to the Sixers’ success, but had a notable limp on the court and the ankle was wrapped up when he spoke to reporters following the game.
The injury issues have been a significant hurdle for the Sixers thus far. James Harden will remain out as he rehabs from the tendon sprain in his right foot. Tyrese Maxey also is in a boot after suffering a small break in his foot against the Bucks. In addition, Tobias Harris missed the past two games with a hip injury but looks to be on track to return to the court ahead of the matchup with Brooklyn.
It will be a difficult challenge for the Sixers to beat their Eastern Conference rival while being so shorthanded. In contrast, Brooklyn will have Kyrie Irving back on the court after he served his suspension. The team has begun to find its stride of late going 4-2 in their last six games. It will take an impressive effort from Embiid and the rest of the Sixers to come out on top. Considering the regular rate Embiid puts forth these performances and the energy fans will surely bring, this cannot be ruled out.