Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid pushed aside rumors that lingering issues with Ben Simmons led the point guard to request a trade from the Sixers.
Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday that Simmons met with the 76ers front office to inform them he no longer wanted to remain with the team. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today added a "rift had been escalating" between the Sixers' stars, which was a factor in the situation.
Embiid responded to the claim Wednesday on Twitter:
Joel “Troel” Embiid @JoelEmbiid
Sources “Trust me bro”!! Stop using my name to push people’s agendas. I love and hate drama. I love playing with Ben. Stats don’t lie. He’s an amazing player and we all didn’t get the job done. It’s on me personally. I hope everyone is back cuz we know we’re good enough to win <a href="https://t.co/1kq9VI9byE">https://t.co/1kq9VI9byE</a>
He later expanded on his thoughts about the speculation and fan criticism:
Joel “Troel” Embiid @JoelEmbiid
I haven’t forgotten but 2 years ago, I got booed, people in Philly wanted me to be traded. I even shushed them. Only the real ones didn’t but I just put the work in that offseason to be better cuz I knew I wasn’t playing up to my potential. Philly fans, y’all also gotta be better
The Sixers made the playoffs each of the four seasons Embiid and Simmons have played together, but they've been unable to reach championship-level expectations. They haven't advanced beyond the second round of the postseason in any of those trips.
Rumors emerged about Philadelphia potentially shaking up its core after it was eliminated by the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals in June.
Simmons, who passed up a wide-open layup late in Game 7 of that series, drew criticism in the aftermath of the season-ending defeat.
"I mean, I'll be honest," Embiid told reporters. "I thought the turning point was when we—I don't know how to say it—but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw and we missed the other and then they came down and scored."
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers was asked after that game whether he believed Simmons could be the point guard on a title-winning team.
"I don't know the answer to that," Rivers responded.
Yet, the hallmark points of the NBA offseason—free agency and the draft—came and went without a blockbuster deal involving Simmons, which made it appear the 76ers were planning to stick with the Embiid-Simmons tandem for at least another year.
Now it sounds like the 25-year-old Australian guard may be pushing for a trade before the 2021-22 regular season tips off in late October.
Embiid didn't provide context for his comment that "stats don't lie," but it's worth noting the Sixers have the NBA's third-best winning percentage (.631) during the regular season over the past four years behind only the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks (.667) and 2019 champion Toronto Raptors (.640), per StatMuse.
So Philadelphia has been putting itself in contention but hasn't been able to overcome the playoff hurdles necessary to win a title, which flips the narrative about the Embiid-Simmons partnership.
A source told Pompey that Simmons would prefer a trade to one of "three California teams." That probably refers to the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers. The Sacramento Kings are the other option that fits the description.
It's unclear whether there's enough time left in the offseason to make such a marquee deal, considering most teams having already wrapped up the significant portions of their roster-building processes, though.
For his part, Embiid made it clear he's not trying to push Simmons out the door and would welcome the chance to push for a championship with his three-time All-Star running mate.