76ers

How Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons’ franchise-altering partnership has evolved

How Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons’ franchise-altering partnership has evolved

The Sixers were coming off a 10-win season. 

Joel Embiid, thought to be the franchise-altering player then-GM Sam Hinkie was pining for, missed his second straight season with a broken navicular bone.

Many questioned Hinkie’s tactics and the validity of The Process.

But then things started coming together. Not because Hinkie resigned — and definitely not because “the past GM” took over — but all the suffering the franchise and fan base had endured seemed to pay off when the Sixers drafted Ben Simmons No. 1 overall.

Though it wasn’t always the smoothest road, the partnership of Embiid and Simmons has become stronger than ever. As the pair of young superstars have grown individually, so too has their understanding of each other.

The bond they share has been built upon one thing: Winning.

We just want to win,” Simmons said. “And I know he wants to win — he's a very competitive guy and that's the same way I am. And we both show it in different ways. Our relationship continues to grow. We love being in Philadelphia, we love playing together. I think we can do something amazing here.

What they’ve already done is pretty amazing in itself.

They’ve become All-Stars and led their team to the second round of the playoffs in two straight seasons. Both runs ended in disappointment but when you think about the context, it’s almost remarkable.

With Embiid playing his first full season and Simmons as a rookie, the Sixers won 52 games and finished with the third seed. After beating the Heat in five games, expectations changed. Suddenly, people were picking the Sixers to make it to the Finals.

And with that, there was no going back. With Embiid and Simmons playing together, piling up regular season wins and All-Star appearances, the expectations will always be heightened.

Not only do both players understand it, they embrace it.

“My whole mindset is focused on winning — I've gotta win at least 60 games, and I know it's going to put me in a better situation when it comes to other things,” Embiid said. “So, that's what I'm focused on. … We've got a championship-caliber team. We've got a chance to win it, so it's all about building that team chemistry and making sure everyone stays on the same page, and I think we're going to be fine."

There’s no denying that Embiid and Simmons aren’t a perfect fit on the court. Embiid’s best work is done in the post and Simmons’ unwillingness to shoot — which, according to Simmons, is a thing of the past — hasn’t made for a great mix.

They’re also very different off it. So while they’ll likely never be best friends, there's an understanding and a mutual respect.

When Brett Brown told them last season that they needed each other, they bought in. 

We're both different,” Embiid said Tuesday at training camp. “He's a great guy, works hard — extremely hard. And then we're different, you know, I just, I'm the type of guy, you know, just like to stay home, play video games, hang out with my girlfriend or my dog. So that's what I want to do. Just get in the gym and I don't like to do anything else. But you know, when we get on the court, it's different. I know he's extremely competitive. Everybody knows that about me. And we both want to win. We see what we can accomplish in the future and it kind of pushes us harder.

Both players have faced their fair share of scrutiny. Embiid has been criticized for his fitness level while Simmons likely has the most overanalyzed jump shot in NBA history. But there's a different air about both players. Both seem to be maturing before our eyes. Perhaps that's because of the opportunity in front of them.

Embiid’s stated goal is to win a championship. He still wants to win Defensive Player of the Year and MVP, but he knows that if he’s contributing to the team’s success, those things will take care of themselves.

Every time Simmons was asked about individual goals, he mentioned that he didn’t have any. Like Embiid, he understands that the ultimate team goal will take care of everything else.

"Win a championship,” Simmons said when asked about his individual goals. “Every other individual accolade comes along with doing your job. You can't go out and say you want to win certain things unless it's going to help the team win. I know I can tell you right now, Giannis [Antetokounmpo] would rather have a championship than MVP. That's just my mentality — I'd rather win and see everybody on my team do well than an individual accolade, unless it's Defensive Player of the Year."

From a 10-win season to an unsure fit to talking about championships and competing for major awards.

This duo has already altered the franchise forever.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Jerry Stackhouse tries to set record straight on scrimmages with 17-year-old Kobe Bryant

Jerry Stackhouse tries to set record straight on scrimmages with 17-year-old Kobe Bryant

At 17 years old, Kobe Bryant was scrimmaging against professional athletes and Philadelphia college stars, about to embark on a 20-year NBA career.

He impressed in those scrimmages with his skill and bravado. But, according to Jerry Stackhouse, Bryant wasn’t big on passing. 

Stackhouse, now the head coach at Vanderbilt, spent the first two-plus years of his career with the Sixers before being traded to the Pistons and matched up with Bryant in those scrimmages.

What happened with Kobe was nobody really wanted to play with Kobe,” he said on The Woj Pod. “[Former La Salle star and NBA player] Lionel Simmons, you used to always see him pulling Kobe to the side, like, ‘Man, you gotta pass the ball! You gotta learn how to do this!' Because the older guys were from Philly. … These stories kind of take on a life of their own. And yes, Kobe had some good days scoring the ball, because he could handle it so well. But he had tunnel vision at that point. You had pickup games, sometimes he didn’t even get picked up. 

“But again, because he’s so been great since this, these stories go back of ‘Oh, he beat Stackhouse one-on-one.’ Come on, man. Me at 20 years old, can you imagine a 17-year-old beating me consistently? I’d have hurt him first, real talk. Just physically, that could never happen to me. Did we play one-on-one? Yes. Did he beat me, did he maybe win a game? Yes. Did he consistently beat Jerry Stackhouse at 20 years old when he was 17? Hell no. I’m putting an end to that story. … Was he super talented and everyone saw great potential in him? Yes, but those scenarios … of Kobe Bryant, they’re a little bit of a different story when you go talk to people that were actually in the gym. 

Stackhouse noted that it took a little time for Bryant to adjust to the NBA game, which is true. The Lower Merion High School graduate played only 15.5 minutes per game as a rookie. Of course, he went on to make 18 All-Star Games, win five NBA championships and become one of the best players of his era. 

Though Stackhouse wanted to set the record straight on those one-on-one games with Bryant, he was still amazed by his ability at such a young age.

“This kid was unbelievable,” he said. “Just his ball handling ability … he grew up, obviously, emulating Michael Jordan.”

However, the members of the Philadelphia basketball community who were in the gym for those scrimmages were apparently ruthless in their critiques.

“I vividly remember the old heads from Philadelphia,” Stackhouse said, “[they're] like, ‘Come on, man, you gotta pass the ball! That ain’t how you gotta play!’” 

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Sixers fans can't stop laughing at Bulls for interviewing Bryan Colangelo

Sixers fans can't stop laughing at Bulls for interviewing Bryan Colangelo

Sixers fans, grasping at any semblance of basketball news, received a cruise ship-sized life line on Wednesday.

The Athletic's Shams Charania reported the Bulls have interviewed former 76ers president Bryan Colangelo for their top basketball ops position:

This is, of course, kind of a mind-boggling decision from the Bulls, considering the way Colangelo's bumpy tenure in Philly ended. 

You know, Burner-gate. Remember that insanity? Remember when the active general manager of the 76ers was linked to Twitter accounts actively disparaging his own players? That really happened!

And yet, despite the public unraveling of his time with the Sixers, and the unsavory nature of his resignation, the Bulls somehow deemed Colangelo worthy of an interview for this position as they try to kickstart their floundering franchise.

Sixers fans couldn't believe it:

Some laughed, and laughed, and laughed:

Some encouraged the insanity, because there's nothing Sixers fans love more than watching a tire fire form in real time:

And then, of course, Sixers Twitter came with the jokes, because they are ruthless and unceasing:

Colangelo actually landing the job is, admittedly, probably a long shot. But the fact that he could even garner an interview at this point in his career, and after his last stop, is both hilarious and confounding.

And Sixers fans are here for it, entirely.

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers