Joel Embiid, the Internet savant who is always one step ahead on social media, tried to play off the report Tuesday that Ben Simmons wants to leave the Philadelphia Sixers with a tongue-in-cheek tweet about his favorite soccer team.
But when Embiid's name started being attached to Simmons' desire to leave Philadelphia on Wednesday morning, the superstar apparently hit his breaking point.
Embiid took to Twitter to go after a report from USA Today that characterized Embiid's relationship with Simmons as a "rift" that was "escalating", ripping the anonymous reports and tacking on a message about his desire for the Sixers' core to return intact for next season - and also taking Sixers fans to task:
Folks, I think Joel has had enough - of the offseason drama, of the criticism, of everything.
This is of course not the first time that the Embiid-Simmons relationship has come under fire. Multiple reports over the years have painted the two as not-exactly-chummy, even thought their body language on the court during this past regular season seemed to be pretty jovial and the two have consistently lauded each other on and off the court.
It's hard for us to know exactly how much of this is true emotion from Embiid, and how much is saving face with some quick PR cover.
Embiid turned heads with a postgame answer after the Sixers' Game 7 loss to the Hawks, in which he said the turning point was when a player (who was not named) "had an open shot, and we made one free throw and we missed the other, and then they came down and scored". Many believed Embiid was taking a shot at Simmons, and on Tuesday the Inquirer's Keith Pompey reported that Simmons felt betrayed by Doc Rivers saying he wasn't sure if the Sixers had a championship-level point guard on the roster. Is it possible Simmons was also off-put by Embiid's comments after the loss? Absolutely.
It's also possible that the believed schism between the two is overblown, and Simmons' desire to play elsewhere doesn't have anything to do with Embiid. He might not see eye-to-eye with the current leadership, or with Rivers, or it might be entirely off-the-court stuff.
Right now I'd guess it's somewhere in the middle of it all, because something like this is never cut-and-dry. And, like with the Carson Wentz exit before, we might never get a straight answer on why things fell apart. The whispers and world-building around the rumors almost always end up superseding the truth, and we all wind up with our own pictures of what went down.
All fans can do right now is wait to see where Simmons ends up, and hope that Embiid is happy with where the chips fall afterwards.