Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons ended their Philadelphia 76ers partnership on a poor note after last season, but Embiid is disputing just how much he was targeting the former point guard in some viral comments.
Simmons completely melted down in the 76ers’ Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks last season. He refused to shoot by the end of the series, which helped Atlanta win and advance.
At the end of the Sixers’ Game 7 loss, Simmons passed up an open shot that left many wondering what he was doing. Embiid mentioned that play during a postgame comment that received tremendous attention.
But Embiid now says he wasn’t taking a shot at Simmons at the time.
Embiid discussed the situation during an appearance on “The Draymond Green Show.” Green asked Embiid about the situation with Simmons, and Embiid interjected.
“I didn’t understand what happened, what led to that whole situation. To this day, I don’t understand. Like I said, obviously we didn’t win a championship together, but in the regular season, we were dominant. Every single season, 50-win seasons. I always believed that we had a chance to win together. Like I always believed it. Even today, I believe we had a chance to win. And what we were able to accomplish, obviously winning matters the most. But I feel like we had a chance. That’s why I don’t understand what was going on, honestly, what caused him to want to leave. I understand his explanation, but a lot of things don’t make sense,” Embiid told Green.
Green then asked Embiid whether he felt his Game 7 press conference affected things.
“I don’t think it did,” Embiid said. “You’re a member of the media and this is what you just mentioned, that they’re always going to try to pick up little stuff just to … cause controversy and all that stuff.
“If you look at the whole press conference, they asked me a question. ‘What happened, like what caused this loss?’ And I literally mentioned a bunch of events that happened. I mentioned where it really started. And you know, I was being honest. Like me and you. I said what I wanted to say. I’m not gonna hold myself just because I gotta make people feel better. And I feel like I didn’t hurt anybody’s feelings.
“I mentioned, I was like, obviously the passed-up dunk, I didn’t even mention that. I said, ‘we missed an opportunity’ and then I actually called out Matisse (Thybulle) for missing the free throw. I didn’t call out him by name. I was like, “We missed a free throw” and then I called out a bunch of events that happened after, like we fouled a 3-point shooter. And I mentioned me turning the ball over when we were down four at that point, and they ended up scoring in the fastbreak, which pushed the lead up to six points. I mentioned a bunch of other events when we made mistakes. I mentioned myself, but the media’s gonna be the media. They all take that one part when I said we passed up a layup and we missed a free throw and all of that, which doesn’t make sense.
“I didn’t call out anybody specifically. I just listed a bunch of events that happened that led to us. At that point, the score was tied or we were down by one at that point when we missed the free throw. And I called out a bunch of events that happened after. But they just had to pick out that one part where it seemed like I was calling someone out when I wasn’t willing to. I was talking about the sequence of events that happened.”
Embiid really wanted to emphasize with Green that he didn’t single out the Simmons incident as the culprit.
We even noted as much in our original story about the matter last year. I wrote at the time that “Embiid wasn’t trying to call out Simmons, but he couldn’t help but do so after the loss.”
Embiid didn’t set out to put everything on Simmons, but when asked what went wrong, that was the first thing he mentioned as where it all started going badly in Game 7.
Intentional or not, Embiid ended up throwing Simmons under the bus. Between what Embiid said and what Doc Rivers said, Simmons had his feelings irreparably hurt, and he refused to play in Philly again.
That’s a Simmons problem much more than an Embiid problem.