The dust has largely settled following the ugly divorce between Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers. Now, 347 days in the rearview mirror, both the Nets and Sixers have their own areas of focus, with James Harden showing signs of being the co-star introduced in recent games. The two teams have faced each other twice since the trade, with neither being at full strength.
Brooklyn pulled off a comfortable 119-88 win over the Sixers shortly after the trade while Simmons was sidelined. They faced each other again in November, with both Harden and Embiid absent through injury. Still, the Sixers pulled off a dominant 120-88 win with the wild Philadelphia crowd at their backs.
The two teams will go head-to-head on Wednesday, and the stars appear to be finally aligning for Simmons and Embiid to take the field as enemies for the first time. However, there were some doubts due to Embiid’s injury status.
It came as no surprise that Embiid was left out of the previous matchup against the Kings as it came at the end of the road trip. Harden also didn’t play into what most attributed to a planned rest day. The Sixers secured a bumpy 129-127 win despite being without their two top stars and trailing 21 points in the matchup. However, there are now bigger concerns as Embiid did not train with the team this morning due to the ongoing foot problem.
“He’s here, but he didn’t leave,” Rivers said of SixersWire’s Ky Carlin via Embiid. “We did a lot of skeletal work, walkthrough stuff.”
The head coach also didn’t offer a huge outlook on his status, saying: “He’s day-to-day. We’ll see how he develops.”
Rivers clarified at the end that this matchup will not be weighted more than any other game. As he said: “It’s the same and we just want to make sure it’s right. If it’s correct, he plays. If not, we’ll wait another game and see where he stands.”
On the plus side, Embiid spent some time on the pitch following training. He participated in a low-impact scrimmage with the Sixers coaching staff, where he made his usual appearance.
The Nets have also recovered from their rocky start to the season, advancing to 29-17, where they sit just a game behind the Sixers. Simmons has shown occasional flashes but has yet to live up to expectations. In the 27.5 minutes per game he played, Simmons averaged 7.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 1.5 steals.
While his greatest role isn’t as a goalscorer, the former number one overall winner has continued to dwindle in his offensive drive. His 6.0 field goal attempts per game is the lowest of his career, his previous low was 10.1 per game. Simmons is also shooting just 43.4% from the free throw line this season and is attempting a career-low at 1.5 attempts per game. Fear of getting to the line is a major contributor to his lack of offensive aggression, which became the ultimate resolution of his time with the Sixers.
The matchup may have lost some of its appeal, but there are still some emotions when the matchup between Simmons and Embiid takes place. The Sixers superstar directed many digs at Simmons throughout his tenure, and whispers of their fractured relationship rang throughout their tenure together.
There will be more clarity on Embiid’s status as we get closer to the game. Kevin Durant will also miss the matchup as he recovers from his MCL sprain. Regardless, it’s sure to be an intense matchup as the Sixers look to continue their climb up the Eastern Conference and continue their hot streak after winning 18 of their last 22.