PHILADELPHIA — 76ers fans wasted no time telling Ben Simmons exactly what they thought Thursday night.
The City of Brotherly Love booed Simmons during warmups. They chanted "shoot the ball!" when he was doing a passing drill with Patty Mills. And they sarcastically mocked him with a standing ovation when he dunked.
Simmons spent four seasons in Philadelphia, helping to build the 76ers into a playoff contender. Yet what fans here seem to remember most was the way he passed up shots in Game 7 of their second-round loss to Atlanta last year. Those who didn’t turn on him then did so after Simmons demanded a trade this past summer and then refused to play until it happened.
Simmons, who has yet to play this season, was dealt to the Nets in the James Harden trade exactly a month before Thursday’s game, and his original plan was to be back on the floor for this game. While attempting to ramp up and get into condition, the three-time All-Star suffered a setback and has a sore back.
Simmons had not been traveling with the Nets because of his back, but coach Steve Nash said before the game that they had him join them in Philadelphia because he could get there by car.
"It’s an hour away. It’s probably a good thing for him to come back and experience it and get some of it out of the way," Nash said in his pregame news conference.
Earlier in the day, Nash said he hopes Simmons can embrace the moment and the reaction from the Philadelphia fans. "I hope he enjoys it. How many people in this world get to go into an arena and get booed by the entire place?" Nash said. "I had it done to me and I thought it was a privilege. So I hope he enjoys the experience, and his future is in Brooklyn, and Philly’s moved on, and it’s a basketball game, so let’s go out there and enjoy it."