Sixers

Will Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid join list of NBA breakups?

Sixers

I don’t care about that man.

There’s not a lot of room for secondary interpretations surrounding the quote Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid gave reporters when was asked about his teammate Ben Simmons being dismissed from Tuesday’s practice and suspended for the team’s opening game Wednesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. 

Embiid said he didn’t care about Simmons’ behavior at 76ers practice -- reportedly Simmons refused to participate in a defensive drill when asked by head coach Doc Rivers and left practice soon thereafter -- and added that it was not his job “to babysit somebody.”

Simmons has been distant from the team and teammates throughout the 2021 NBA offseason, demanding trades out of the City of Brotherly Love and reportedly putting his Philadelphia condo on the market.

 

With Simmons’ temperature on the 76ers well known (it’s cold, ice cold) and Embiid speaking as bluntly as he did Tuesday, this partnership seems headed toward an inevitable divorce.

Here’s a look at famous NBA breakups that Simmons and Embiid might be joining if they can’t salvage their relationship. 

Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

No tandem had more success on this list than Bryant and O’Neal. In eight seasons together, they won three NBA championships, which came in consecutive years from 2000-02. They reached a fourth NBA Finals in 2004, but lost to the Detroit Pistons in five games. That following offseason, O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and draft compensation. 

The impetus of the Kobe-Shaq breakup was long believed to be their rocky relationship as teammates, but Lakers owner and president Jeanie Buss said earlier this year that it was “purely a money” decision, as L.A. was unable to reach an extension agreement with O’Neal. Each superstar still found success following the split, with Bryant capturing two more titles in Los Angeles and O’Neal winning one with the Heat.

Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

The Shaq-Wade era in Miami got off to a blazing start, winning 59 games en route to a conference finals appearance in 2004-05 and claiming the NBA title in Year 2. But then it quickly went downhill. The defending-champion Heat were swept in the first round of the 2007 playoffs and followed that up with a 15-win campaign in ‘07-08.

During that 15-win season, Miami dealt O’Neal to the Phoenix Suns for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks. The Suns took a gamble on Shaq, who had dealt with injuries for the past season-plus at the time of the trade, and it turned out to be a bad move (even ex-Suns GM Steve Kerr conceded that years later). Phoenix failed to make it out of the first round that season and then missed the playoffs entirely the following year. 

 

Marion played 58 games with Miami before being traded to the Toronto Raptors for Jermaine O’Neal in 2009. Wade couldn’t get the Heat beyond the first round in the two postseasons after the Shaq trade, but he had help on the way in the form of LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

Jason Kidd and Vince Carter, New Jersey Nets

The New Jersey Nets pounced when Vince Carter asked out of Toronto in 2004, bringing him this side of the border to play with Jason Kidd. Carter had some of his best seasons in New Jersey, but it wasn’t enough to get the Nets, who had lost in consecutive Finals in ‘02 and ‘03, over the hump. The Kidd-Carter Nets suffered one first-round loss and two second-round losses.

Kidd demanded a trade with New Jersey in the midst of a losing 2007-08 season, and the Nets pulled the trigger on a deal with the Dallas Mavericks for a package headlined by Devin Harris. Kidd’s trade request helped lead to the first and only NBA championship of his Hall of Fame career, winning it with the Mavs in 2011.

Back in New Jersey, the Carter-Harris era was ... underwhelming. Carter was dealt to the Magic in 2009 while Harris’ biggest achievement with the Nets was helping them trade for Utah Jazz All-Star Deron Williams during the 2010-11 season.

Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets

Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson were a lethal one-two scoring punch during their brief time together in Denver. In 2007-08, their lone full season as teammates, Melo and A.I. each averaged over 25 points, combining for 52.1 per game. The problem was all of those points didn’t translate into any playoff success. The Anthony-Iverson Nuggets won just one total playoff game over two postseason trips, losing to the eventual NBA champion each time. 

Just a few games into the 2008-09 season, Denver traded Iverson to the Pistons for a more traditional point guard in Chauncey Billups. The addition of Billups helped propel the Nuggets to the ‘09 Western Conference Finals, but that’s as far as Anthony would lead Denver before being dealt to the Knicks in 2011. 

Meanwhile, Iverson played 54 games in a Pistons uniform and was out of the league just two years after the trade.

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

The drama-filled modern NBA has taught us to expect the unexpected when it comes to player movement, and this is Exhibit A. Kyrie Irving’s trade request in July of 2017, one month after an NBA Finals loss and one year after an NBA Finals win, was shocking. The All-Star point guard reportedly no longer wanted to play with LeBron James, despite making three straight trips to the Finals.

 

Irving got his wish one month later as the Cavs traded him to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and draft picks. The Cavs made it to a fourth straight Finals in 2018 despite getting just 15 games out of an injury-hampered Thomas, but lost to the Golden State Warriors for the third time in four years, and then lost LeBron (again) in free agency. 

The trade didn’t work out any better for the Celtics, who watched Irving bolt to the Brooklyn Nets in 2019.

Chris Paul and James Harden, Houston Rockets

The Harden-Paul era Rockets had a chance to get by the dynasty Warriors in consecutive postseasons (up 3-2 without Paul in 2018 and down 3-2 to a Kevin Durant-less squad in 2019), but they failed to capitalize on either opportunity. With Harden and Paul reportedly not on the greatest of terms after just two seasons as teammates, Houston dealt CP3 along with a substantial amount of draft capital to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Russell Westbrook.

The Harden-Westbrook reunion didn’t even last as long as the Harden-Paul partnership. Westbrook asked out after one season in Houston, which resulted in a second-round loss in the Orlando bubble, and Harden followed suit shortly after. The Rockets first shipped Westbrook to the Washington Wizards and then entered full rebuild mode one month later by dealing Harden to the Brooklyn Nets. 

Paul on the other hand revived his career during his one season in OKC and, following another trade, turned back into an MVP candidate and helped lead the Suns to the NBA Finals in 2020-21.

DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry were an awesome regular-season tandem, leading the Toronto Raptors to at least 48 wins for five straight years. But their playoff resume over that stretch wasn’t nearly as impressive. They were upset in Round 1 the first two years before being bounced by LeBron’s Cavs in the last three -- twice in Round 2 and once in the conference finals.

 

Toronto shook things up after a second-round sweep in 2018, trading DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a first-rounder to the San Antonio Spurs for disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. It was a risky gamble with Leonard entering a contract year, but it paid off big time as the Raptors won their first-ever title behind Leonard’s incredible playoff performance in 2019. Both Leonard and Green walked for nothing in free agency, but that was a price worth paying to win the NBA title.

John Wall and Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

While they reached three conference semifinals together, Wall and Beal never really got to play with one another when they both were at the peak of their powers. Beal ascended toward becoming one of the league’s top scorers as Wall’s injury troubles began. The five-time All-Star point guard had season-ending surgery on his heel in 2018-19 and missed the entire next season due to a torn Achilles.

Wall asked for a trade after his name came up in trade rumors and was eventually dealt to the Rockets for Russell Westbrook and a first-round pick before the 2020-21 season. In their first season as teammates, Westbrook and Beal helped the Washington Wizards snap a two-year postseason drought by winning 17 of their final 23 regular-season games. 

Wall averaged 20.6 and 6.9 assists in 40 games for the league-worst Rockets, but continued to battle lower-body injuries throughout the season.

Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

Russell Westbrook had another one-year stop, this time in the nation’s capital. After a first-round exit against the top-seeded 76ers, the Wizards sent Westbrook to his home state of California in a deal with the Lakers. In return, the Wizards netted Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and draft compensation. Washington’s acquisition of Spencer Dinnwiddie from the Brooklyn Nets via sign-and-trade was also worked into the deal, which wound up being a five-team trade.

With improved depth around their star player, the Wizards now enter what could be a franchise-altering season. Beal holds a $37.2 million player option for 2022-23, meaning he can hit free agency as early as next offseason. So, unless he inks an extension, the Wizards will have a huge decision to make before the trade deadline