Ben Simmons is not the problem. You are.
I could not believe my eyes this morning when I logged on to Twitter. The amount of hate and misguided anger towards Ben Simmons has reached an all-time high. Forget about Philly sports talk radio, I already knew what they would be talking about today without tuning in. With every bad performance from Ben Simmons, the responses are so predictable.
Just seven days ago, the Sixers were 7-2 and absolutely dominating teams on both ends of the court. Joel Embiid was in MVP talks. Tobias Harris was making quick decisions. Seth Curry was hitting three-pointers at a ridiculously high percentage. Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey were instant sparks off the bench.
Oh, and Ben Simmons was impacting the game in every statistical category recorded.
Fast forward to today, just seven days later, and the Sixers are now 8-4; good for second place behind the 7-3 Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference. They played against the Nuggets with seven players and lost. They lost again on Monday night to the Atlanta Hawks with nine players. Behind an MVP performance from Joel Embiid last night, they managed to come back from an eight-point deficit at the half to beat the Heat in overtime.
The team and fans alike have been up in arms about the NBA’s shaky COVID-19 protocols. Joel Embiid is on record stating that the Sixers should not have played last Saturday against the Nuggets. He’s right. Everyone is right, besides the NBA, on the COVID-19 protocol debate. The only reason the Sixers reached the league minimum of eight players against the Nuggets is because an injured Mike Scott dressed for the game. The fact that the Sixers have to continue to play games as the rest of the league is granted postponements is puzzling.
What’s even more puzzling is the fact that Sixers’ fans want to look at these games, that we are all in agreement shouldn’t be played, and now say that Ben Simmons (who’s playing through what seems to be an injured swollen knee) is terrible and needs to be traded.
Look, I understand that during times of struggle, we as Sixers fans want Ben Simmons to do what Joel Embiid did last night and take over a game, put the team on his back, and carry them to a win. That is a fair ask from one of your franchise cornerstone players and I’m sorry that didn’t happen. But honestly, on a team with Joel Embiid, that’s not even asked of Ben Simmons, nor is it needed.
Michael Jordan loved Doug Collins. Collins was instrumental in developing Jordan early in his career. Collins was not the coach to take Jordan’s game to the next level. It’s also worth noting that Jordan was drafted in 1984 and did not win a championship until 1991. For a more recent comparison look at Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis is now in his eighth NBA season. It took him arguably five years to become the force he is today.
The Eagles won a Super Bowl, we watched the window on the Phillies 5-6 years of glory open and close, and now we have the Sixers with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The duo are two generational talents. They are young, raw, and learning. Hell, Joel Embiid didn’t even watch basketball until 2010 and is now entering the prime of his career at an MVP level.
In 10 games this season, Ben Simmons is averaging 12.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game. Yes, offensively Ben Simmons can do more. He will do more. We have seen this year that he is more willing to take an open jumper. There’s no reason to believe that won’t continue to improve over time.
Simmons is an All-Star. He is an All-Defensive Player. He is an NBA Rookie of the Year winner. Enough with the recency bias. It’s time to look at the bigger picture. Keep your emotions in check and stop making franchise-altering decisions on a game-by-game basis. Ben Simmons is 24-years old and a generational talent. If you’re judging his performances simply by the number of points he is scoring, it’s reasonable to assume that you haven’t been watching the Sixers for very long.
Stop treating Ben Simmons like a high school relationship. We cannot as a fanbase, continue to do this every game. Go find the nearest mirror and ask yourself if you really want a player like James Harden in Philadelphia. Talent aside, this guy is a locker room cancer that no one wants to play with. James Harden is old, out of shape, and is literally doing everything possible to force his way out of Houston. Are we really saying he will be a good fit on the Sixers, a team that has finally found their identity and the right puzzle pieces to contend for a championship without Harden already?
I’m certainly not saying that. Not even close. Ben Simmons is not the problem. You are. If you have “seen enough” of a 24-year old Ben Simmons that hasn’t reached his full potential as a player, then please, just stop watching the Sixers. I only say that because I care about your mental health.
When we get bodied in the second round AGAIN because Simmons has no role in a half court offense and even Embiid can’t carry us through 5 vs 4 in the playoffs, I’ll remember that it was my fault, not the number one overall pick who is frightened of ten footers.