Ben Simmons is often direct when answering questions from the media. His responses are usually straightforward, and he doesn’t waste much time trying to formulate them.
After the Sixers’ 111-102 loss to the Nets on Saturday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series (see observations), he was asked his thoughts on the frustration from the crowd at Wells Fargo Center. He paused for a couple of seconds, then said this:
If you’re going to boo, then stay on that side. That’s how I feel. If you’re a Sixers fan and you’re going to boo, stay on that side.
It’s likely not a quote that will endear him to the Sixers fans already groaning at his continued unwillingness to accept the frequent invitations he has to shoot open jumpers, and already frustrated by his nine-point, seven-rebound, three-assist performance vs. Brooklyn. The boos for Simmons were especially loud following two missed free throws late in the third quarter. A 60 percent free throw shooter during the regular season, Simmons shot 1 for 5 from the foul line Saturday.
Simmons wasn’t pleased with how he played either.
“Yeah, I think I was just thinking too much and not being a playmaker,” he said.
His teammates had different perspectives on the boos.
“I heard it, too,” Tobias Harris said after scoring a season-low four points in 40 minutes. “It is what it is.”
And Jimmy Butler, who almost single-handedly kept the Sixers in the game with a playoff career-high 36 points, acknowledged there was a simple way the Sixers could make the booing stop.
“I understand it,” Butler said. “They want to see us win — I want to see us win, too. In the end, I think we just gotta do better. I guarantee if we’re winning, they’re not booing, so that’s the way to change it. Let’s just go out there and win on Monday.”
For Simmons, it might take a little more than a win in Game 2 to turn the boos into cheers after his comment. Philadelphia sports fans generally aren’t of the opinion that booing is mutually exclusive with being a fan of a team.
Butler dismissed a reporter’s question about whether he needed to talk with Simmons about his remark.
“He’s a grown man,” he said. “If that’s the way that he feels, that’s the way that he feels.”
Joel Embiid, like Butler, understood the boos, but he also recognized how they could become irritating for some players.
"It’s tough. I heard a couple people yelling that it felt like a board game," Embiid said. "I love the fans and I never say anything about them. They show us love. It’s understandable. They come in, they pay a lot of money, they want the game to be entertaining. They want to watch us win so I understand why they boo.
"But the fact that it’s after every single miss, when shots aren’t going to fall. Tonight they didn’t fall, but for me, I’m fine. I’ll play through anything. But for some guys it’s annoying. It can be annoying. It’s like every missed shot, you get booed so you get the next one and it’s kind of like, ‘Should I shoot it or should I not because I’m about to get booed?’ I don’t know. Some guys are like that. It’s hard. I think we all got to do a better job. Us, the fans, but I don’t blame them. We got to bring the fun and go to play sharp."
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