The date was June 20th, 2021, when everything changed for Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers. That was when Simmons passed up that wide-open shot in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals vs. the Atlanta Hawks. Yes, some fans and even some inside of the organization were starting to wonder if the combination of Joel Embiid and Simmons could take the next step. Still, that moment expedited Simmon's ticket out of Philadelphia.
Ben Simmons did not just pass this up... pic.twitter.com/4JyM7ZHNkJ— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 21, 2021
It became so big that it became a running joke on social media for months.
How hoopers be making unnecessary passes ♂️ pic.twitter.com/mHTf0D5Ay9— Mark Phillips (@SupremeDreams_1) July 8, 2020
Simmons would not play another game for the 76ers as he requested a trade after that Game Seven loss which coincided with Doc Rivers saying, "I dont know that answer" when asked if Simmons could be the point guard on a championship team. Simmons would report to the 76ers late the following season and go back and forth with the organization on everything from the seriousness of his injured back to his current mental state.
The situation came to a head when Simmons was kicked out of practice for refusing to perform a drill. On February 10th, 2022, the 76ers completed a trade sending Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, a 2022 first-round pick (unprotected), 2027 first-round pick (protected) to the Brooklyn Nets for James Harden and Paul Millsap.
Even with the completion of the trade, 76ers fans are not done with Simmons. A month after the Simmons for Harden trade last season, the Nets traveled to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers in what was supposed to be Simmons first game back against his former team. Simmons, however, was in street clothes, but that didn't stop 76ers fans from letting him know exactly how they felt.
Fans serenaded Simmons with boos and expletive-laced chants as the former All-Star set on the Nets bench. However, those boos will seem like a church choir compared to what he will see once he steps on the court in Tuesday's much-anticipated matchup with the 76ers. Coach Jacque Vaughn knows precisely the situation Simmons is walking into.
“It’s probably the most hostile environment he’s probably ever going to be in,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn says. “And to get over this hurdle would be monumental to where he’s at right now and getting back to the form that he wants to get back to.”
Simmons is not sure how he will react in the arena.
“My mind is telling me, ‘Go be you,’” Simmons told ESPN. “But then my body’s trying to catch up. So it feels like I’m just progressing each day, each game. Just building up.
It hasn't been an easy transition for Simmons and the Nets. Simmons didn't play at all last year for the Brooklyn, which caused its own set of issues, and so far this year has played in 12 of the Net's 17 games. The last two games, though, have been some of Simmons best basketball in a long time. Simmons is a combined 17-19 from the field with 21 rebounds and 12 assists in the Net's last two games.
Simmons improved play comes at a great time as he prepares to make his first on-court appearance as an opponent in Philadelphia. We don’t know how the game will play out even though the 76ers will be without Harden, Embiid, and Tyrese Maxey, but we know 76ers fans do not forget a fact that Simmons himself realizes. Simmons was asked if enough time had passed for the reception not to be as bad. Simmons replied
"In Philly?" the three-time All-Star fired back. "Come on now. I know what's coming."
"In Philly?!"— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 21, 2022
Ben Simmons knows what to expect pic.twitter.com/XZMoeM9DxE
If you thought the booing and snowball tossing at Santa was bad by Philadelphia fans, wait until Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.