Report: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons Rift 'Had Been Escalating' Prior to Playoff Exit

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IISeptember 1, 2021

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) shoots during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinal series Friday, June 18, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
AP Photo/John Bazemore

The reported rift between Philadelphia 76ers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons had been escalating prior to the team's surprising second-round playoff series loss to the Atlanta Hawks, per Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

"But the issue was deeper than one play, one game, one series. The Simmons-Embiid rift had been escalating, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the situation."

Simmons' 76ers days appear to be over as daily trade rumors swirl around the three-time All-Star. Of note, Simmons has reportedly told the 76ers that he does not wish to return to the team, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Simmons struggled in the Hawks series, averaging just 9.9 points per game and shooting 33.3 percent from the free-throw line.

Over the series' last three games, Simmons shot the ball just 14 times, scoring 19 points. He notably passed up a wide-open dunk in the fourth quarter of Game 7, leading Embiid to utter these remarks postgame, per Zillgitt.

"I thought the turning points was when we—I don’t know how to say it—is when we had an open shot and made one free throw," Embiid said.

Jason Dumas of Bleacher Report also dropped this news in early August:

gifdsports @gifdsports

Ben Simmons’ relationship reportedly “beyond repair” is ignoring Joel Embiid’s phone calls. Doesn’t want to get traded to Raptors or Blazers. Open to getting traded to one of the California teams according to <a href="https://twitter.com/JDumasReports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JDumasReports</a> on <a href="https://twitter.com/957thegame?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@957thegame</a> <a href="https://t.co/ouFTf7eBnw">pic.twitter.com/ouFTf7eBnw</a>

Embiid and Simmons helped guide the 76ers in each of their four seasons together, reaching the Eastern Conference Semifinals three times. The 76ers finished this regular season with the No. 1 seed for the first time in 20 years, when they last won the Eastern Conference.

However, the campaign ended in disappointment, and the Embiid-Simmons era may have ended along with it. Now Simmons will likely head elsewhere while Embiid continues to patrol the paint in Philadelphia.


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