Nets star Ben Simmons says he “never really had a relationship” with his ex-Philadelphia 76ers teammate Joel Embiid, and that the two have not spoken since the blockbuster trade last season.
Simmons, during a sitdown interview with ESPN in Milwaukee, said he didn’t take it personally when Sixers fans booed him while he was on the bench during the Nets’ March 10 matchup in Philadelphia last season.
The star forward said he’s looking forward to actually playing against his former team at the Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 22.
“F—, I can’t wait to go there, yeah,” he told ESPN. “But for me, everything’s an experience and a learning situation. So for me, I’m able to learn something that I’ve never been through before. I’ve never been traded and played against a team that I got traded from. Kev [Kevin Durant] has, Ky [Kyrie Irving) has, a lot of guys have, but I’ve never been in that situation, so — you have to go through it.
“Ky went back to Boston, and he didn’t play well, but it’s a lot. We’re people, too. We want to go out there and prove everyone wrong.”
But of course, there’s going to be drama. Simmons will be playing both against a former head coach in Doc Rivers and a co-star in Embiid who threw him under the bus after the 76ers lost Game 7 of the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks. Rivers suggested he was unsure Simmons could be the point guard of a championship team and most recently declined to reflect on his time coaching Simmons during the 76ers’ preseason-opening trip to Brooklyn.
Embiid flat-out blamed Simmons for the loss after Simmons turned down an open dunk and instead passed the ball to a teammate who missed a shot: “I don’t know how to say it,” Embiid said after that game, “but I thought the turning point was we had an open shot, we missed and we made one free throw.”
Simmons, however, said he and Embiid were never as close of friends as their success as teammates would indicate.
“I don’t talk to Jo,” he said. “We never really spoke.
“I don’t think there was really a relationship there. Like in terms of a friendship? You can try as hard as you want to try to be close to somebody, be their friend, whatever it is, but everyone is different as people, so for me, it’s never personal. I don’t have any anger or hate towards him. He is who he is and I am who I am. And we’ve got our personal lives. And work is basketball, so in that moment, my goal is to win and I got to win with Jo. He’s a great player, we just didn’t get it done.”
Simmons told ESPN that winning a championship in Brooklyn “would mean everything” to him and it “would be a dream come true.”
“In a situation like this, being in Brooklyn with these guys and this city, it would be incredible,” he continued. “We got a long way to go, but I think this team’s capable of special things.”
Simmons also said he’s in the best place he’s been in some time.
“I think so,” he said. “You know what? I know so.”