PHILADELPHIA — If Ben Simmons remains on the Philadelphia 76ers past Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, Joel Embiid said he’ll be welcomed back to the team.
But, in a lengthy answer to the question of what it will mean for Simmons and the Sixers after Philadelphia lost 114-109 to the league-leading Phoenix Suns Tuesday, Embiid made it very clear that it will be up to Simmons to show he wants to be part of the team if that scenario comes to pass.
“Like I’ve been saying since the season started, I’m happy,” Embiid said. “Whoever wants to play is welcome. If someone wants to play, they’re welcome. But we’ve got guys here that want to be here, that show up every single night.
“Like I said … I don’t know what other type of word I can use, but I get paid to bring results and win games. I don’t get paid to, you know, babysit Tyrese (Maxey). I get paid to challenge him to try to help me win games. I get paid to, you know, do the same thing to Tobias and all the other guys and they respond to it, every single time. And just like the same way they challenge me, they know that it is never personal. I always go at them, and they always come back at me, because we all got the same goal: we want to win.
“But anybody is welcome to play. And if you want to be part of us, I am sure everybody is gonna be fine with it, but you got to show up. You got to want to be there. And I’m sure everybody is going to accept whoever that is. But, you know, to answer your question, I’m just worried about the guys that are here, and for the guys that are here, and if you’re here, I’m going to challenge you and we’re going to challenge each other to be better and try to win a championship.”
One way or the other, Philadelphia will get some level of clarity Thursday, when the NBA’s 3 pm trade deadline passes. Either Simmons will finally be sent packing from Philadelphia, in exchange for James Harden or some other combination of players and picks, or he will remain on the team and there will be a moratorium on potential Simmons trades until the offseason, at the earliest.
Ever since Simmons chose not to report for training camp more than four months ago, the drama surrounding his situation, and whether or not he’ll be moved, has hung over this city and franchise like an ever-present cloud, casting a shadow over everything the team has done this season.
And, despite all of that, Philadelphia finds itself comfortably ensconced among the upper tier of teams in the Eastern Conference after playing their final game before the deadline, sitting in fifth place in the East with a 32-22 record after Tuesday’s loss, putting them two-and-a-half games back of the East-leading Miami Heat.
But that didn’t stop the 76ers from admitting that they’ll be thrilled to see the deadline pass, and with it the constant speculation about what the roster will look like.
“Absolutely,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said, when asked if he’ll be glad to have the clarity that comes with the deadline passing. “Especially this year, just because of the situation we’re in.
“I know, like, our guys are NBA players and all that, but they’re human. I can’t imagine the amount of names that have been thrown in. So every single guy goes to bed tonight thinking this may be his last night or whatever, so that’s tough.
Still, Rivers admitted that Philadelphia, which has dealt with a series of injuries and absences in its backcourt all season long, needs to add a backup point guard behind starter Tyrese Maxey regardless of what happens with Simmons.
“We have to get another guard,” Rivers said. “We just do… we need a point guard. And we’re looking. But they don’t grow on trees, as you know. In the first half, we got away with it, we actually stretched the lead.
“We may do nothing. You can only do something if there’s something there. But that’s clearly something we’re looking for. That and size.”
Rivers also said it will be nice that the team can take the next two days to just get away from everything, before returning to the court Friday night here against the Oklahoma City Thunder with whatever their team will look like for the rest of the season.
“I think the biggest break we have is we have two days off, and the next time we play, we’ll have our team,” Rivers said. “From a coach standpoint, I can’t wait for that, personally. I really can’t wait for that.”
The same could be said for his players, as Sixers forward Tobias Harris — who, having been dealt during the season four times during his NBA career, is very familiar with trade speculation — admitted the noise that has followed Philadelphia around this season has been difficult for the team to block out.
“That will be good for us. Because you’re just hearing everybody’s name. I’ll just be honest, it’s one of those things…trade rumors always come around, even for guys around the NBA, but in this situation, yeah, I was reading an article and there were five guys on the top 10 list to be moved, whatever,” he said. “So, obviously don’t get twisted: that has an impact on guys’ mental, psyche, focus, all the way down the line. So we’ll see what happens.”
Even with all of that, however, Harris admitted he will be refreshing his phone over the next two days as he waits to see what will happen.
“I think everybody else is in the same position as well, checking their phones to see what happens,” Harris said. “It’s our livelihoods and our jobs.”
The same can be said for everyone else here, as well, as both the 76ers and their fans will wait and see if the Ben Simmons Saga has finally run its course, or if it will drag on past the deadline and into the offseason.
“I think a couple of us will finally be able to breathe,” guard Matisse Thybulle said with a smile. “That’s what makes the NBA exciting. You never really know what you’re gonna get.”