The Philadelphia 76ers opened the regular season with a resounding 117-97 victory on the road against the New Orleans Pelicans.
But the majority of the questions continue to be about Ben Simmons, who was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team.
It’s unclear if Simmons will suit up when the Sixers begin their home schedule Friday against the Brooklyn Nets. The Sixers didn’t practice Thursday, but Simmons reportedly skipped an individual workout at the team facility and said he had back tightness.
ESPN reported that Simmons would meet with team brass early Friday to discuss his playing status going forward.
“(The players) have been normal, the only abnormal part is when they have to talk to the media afterwards and they’re asked questions (about Simmons),” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s about playing basketball and growing together and they’ve done a great job of that.”
Simmons has been criticized since passing up a dunk in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks in last season’s playoffs. He openly asked for a trade and left the organization through training camp and the preseason.
In the opener, the Sixers appeared to be loose throughout the game with good team chemistry. Joel Embiid and Furkan Korkmaz each scored 22 points, Tobias Harris added 20 points and 12 rebounds and Tyrese Maxey had 20 points.
“That’s us. That’s how we’ve been this whole summer,” Embiid said. “That’s the attitude everybody has had. That’s the definition of us. Being together, having fun together, doing stuff with each other. I think it goes a long way.”
Embiid officially was listed as questionable for Friday’s game with right knee soreness.
Without Simmons and Shake Milton (ankle), players such as Maxey and Harris held larger roles.
“Our focus was always like zeroed into this game, but I think that just comes from a lot of guys having added opportunity here,” Harris said. “And really trying to figure out ways that they can maximize that type of opportunity.”
The Nets will look to respond after a disappointing 127-104 loss in their opener against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks.
Brooklyn played without All-Star Kyrie Irving, who will be out for the foreseeable future until he complies with a New York mandate to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Kevin Durant led the Nets with 32 points and 11 rebounds against Milwaukee, but the Nets looked out of sync without Irving.
“We weren’t very good,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said. “If you’re not playing at a high level against the champs, you’re not going to win.”
James Harden, a three-time scoring champion, made only 44 appearances last season. Without Irving, Durant and Harden will need to elevate their level of play if the Nets harbor championship aspirations.
“Last year was a whirlwind for me individually, as far as my health and playing,” Harden said. “So this year I need to come back and show I’m one of those guys. I’ve got a lot to prove myself and that’s all I’m worried about and focused upon. I love it here.
“From top to bottom, the communication has been unbelievable. It’s been amazing. I feel at home.”
Harden’s hamstrings look to have healed, as he produced 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists against the Bucks.
The Nets were throttled in the 23-point loss and have a long way to go if they hope to win a championship.
“They were the last team standing last year,” Harden said of the Bucks. “We’ve got to work toward the right direction and build to be that team this season.”
–Field Level Media