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Report: Ben Simmons no longer wants to play with 76ers star Joel Embiid

76ers stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 13: Ben Simmons #25 and Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers talk during the NBA game at Phoenix Suns Arena on February 13, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the 76ers 120-111. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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76ers president Daryl Morey said Ben Simmons requested a trade before the team had any intention of moving him.

Why does Simmons want to leave Philadelphia?

76ers coach Doc Rivers:

That’s a good question. You know, it’s a tough answer, because it wasn’t as clear as we probably would want it. You know, wanting to change places for whatever reason.

In the latest sign of a communication breakdown between Simmons and the the team, the answer is emerging through the media:

Joel Embiid.

Sam Amick of The Athletic:

People who have intimate knowledge of how he sees this situation continue to insist that he’s done playing with Embiid. There’s nothing personal about this choice, it seems, but the 25-year-old Simmons has clearly decided that his career is better off without Embiid blocking the runways in the paint that he so badly needs to succeed.

As he sees it, sources say, the organization’s choice to build its basketball ecosystem around Embiid’s style simply isn’t conducive to the way he needs to play.

It has been obvious for years Embiid and Simmons were not an optimal pairing. There wasn’t ideal spacing when both shared the floor.

Yes, the 76ers experienced major success when Embiid and Simmons shared the floor. They’re both very good players. Talent can overcome plenty – especially in the regular season.

But when the pace slowed and defense tightened in the playoffs, the shortcomings of the Embiid-Simmons combination became more pronounced. Simmons’ offensive regression (let alone lack of development) further exacerbated the problem.

As part of Philadelphia’s push to get Simmons to report (and maybe increase his trade value), Embiid said he loves playing with Simmons. But it hasn’t always appeared that way.

Even if it’s not personal between the two, that’s part of the issue. Perhaps, Simmons and Embiid would work better together if they had a stronger personal connection. Absence of rift is fine. A true bond is far better.

The 76ers’ mistake was letting Simmons reach this realization before they did. They could have gotten gotten better return in a trade earlier. Now, he’s holding out to induce a deal, and they’re losing even more leverage.

Yesterday, Rivers made a couple guesses at what’s bothering Simmons:

  • “It’s tough to play here. But Ben didn’t say that. But you’ve got to assume that’s probably part of it.”
  • Losing exacerbates problems.

I wouldn’t disregard either aspect. Simmons appears sensitive to criticism and has bashed Philadelphia fans who boo. Last year’s second-round loss to the Hawks was particularly bitter.

Just because some people are emphasizing the Embiid factor doesn’t mean it’s the sole reason Simmons wants out.

Which is important because Simmons’ problems won’t all disappear with a trade. Not only is he an unwilling 3-point shooter, he has become a reluctant shooter near the basket – especially in big moments. He avoids free throws at high cost. No team will offer perfect spacing around him.

Even when he’s not playing with Embiid, it’ll still be on Simmons to improve.