Ben Simmons returned to Philadelphia for the first time as an active player on Tuesday night, and it appeared it would be an easy night for the Nets as the 76ers were without Joel Embiid, James Harden, and Tyrese Maxey, who were all out due to injuries.
However, Tobias Harris had a game and season-high 24 points, De’Anthony Melton added 22 points, including a career-high tying six threes, and Paul Reed chipped in with season-highs of 19 points and 10 rebounds off the bench as the 76ers defeated the Nets 115-106 at Wells Fargo Center.
Back to Simmons, who had a tremendous all-around game with 11 points, seven rebounds, 11 assists, three steals, and three blocks, he was booed during introductions, and he was booed every time he touched the ball. Last season, he came to Philly as a member of the Nets as he was dealt to Brooklyn before last season’s trade deadline, but he was a spectator due to injury. Throughout that game, he was booed heavily. However, it was not as bad this time.
“I thought it was going to be louder,” Simmons said after the loss.
We all expected more from the Philly faithful, but with Embiid, Harden, and Maxey out, the fans probably did not think Philadelphia had much chance, which may have impacted the crowd’s energy.
The number one overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft has played well in the last three games as he’s averaging 16 points, 7.6 assists, and 9.3 rebounds per contest, and according to him, he’s in a good place.
“I feel like I’m in a good place to come in here and just play basketball,” Simmons said. “I’m happy. I’m doing what I love, so being able to be out there and experience it was amazing. Obviously, we did not get the result that we wanted. It’s frustrating to lose a game like that, but I think it’s a great step forward.”
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving liked how Simmons handled his return to Philadelphia.
He [Ben Simmons] did pretty good to me,” Durant, who had 20 points, said. “You never know how he really feels about it; you know what I’m saying? Unless you ask him, but he looked solid to me.”
Irving, who had a team-high 23 points, added: “I think he (Ben Simmons) did well. Obviously, we wanted to focus on our team win, but the crowd is not going anywhere, so it’s good to hear their loud voices, hear their boos, and next time hopefully, that motivates us to go out there and get that win a little bit more. We had the lead earlier in the first half, and then we gave it up, so think he did well.”
It appears Simmons is in a better place mentally and physically, and maybe the time away has humbled him, which is always a good thing. In the end, he’s cleared another hurdle.