PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Joel Embiid sent Ben Simmons to Brooklyn with one last tee shot.
“It’s a shame the win wasn’t the most important factor,” Embiid said of Simmons, his former Philadelphia 76ers teammate. “It’s a shame that for him having his own team and, I guess, being a star was more his priority.”
This March 10 Nets-76ers game should be spicy.
That is, if Simmons even plays in his professional comeback. The player he was traded for? Well, Embiid said he’s spoken to James Harden since the trade that made Philadelphia the 2018 NBA MVP and they can’t wait to get started.
“It’s James Harden. One of the best players in the league. MVP,” Embiid said on Friday night. “It’s pretty exciting. You add someone like that, your chances of winning the championship are greater .
The Sixers expect Harden’s arrival to be worth what they paid for in talent, salary and draft picks — the things needed to propel them to their first NBA championship since 1983. The question is, when? ?
Harden did not participate in Philadelphia’s win over Oklahoma City on Friday night and will not play Saturday against Cleveland. His debut is on hold until he is assessed this weekend by team medical staff.
The earliest Harden, who is paid $44.3 million this season, could play for the 76ers is at home Tuesday against Boston. The Sixers also play Thursday against NBA champion Milwaukee before the All-Star break.
Embiid, who said his wrapped right wrist hurt after Friday’s win when he scored 25 points, had no love lost for Simmons after his trade ultimatum shattered what had been an All-Star pair successful.
“It’s unfortunate that it all happened,” Embiid said. “We failed to win in the playoffs. But look at the history of being on the court, what we did in the regular season, we were dominant.
Sixers coach Doc Rivers was once recruited by Harden to coach the three-time scoring champion when he played for the Houston Rockets. The duo have spoken three times since Thursday, when the Sixers acquired Harden from Brooklyn for Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond, but none of the conversations involved his potential debut.
Harden suffered a hamstring injury.
“I want to make sure he’s right before I take him down,” Rivers said.
The Sixers wasted no time decluttering team headquarters in New Jersey — the oversized Simmons magazine cover that hung inside the 76ers’ practice complex was gone — and at the Wells Fargo Center, eh well, goodbye, Curry banners.
Harden’s 76ers jerseys were sewn to order in the lobby for fans who couldn’t wait for him to even play a game. They also shelled out $164.99 for Harden’s No. 1 jerseys in red and blue that lined the shelves next to Embiid’s No. 21 inside the team store.
The price of the Harden jersey is a bargain compared to what the Sixers will pay to wear the uniform this season.
Another new era is set to begin soon with former MVP Harden’s superstar pairing with this season’s favorite Embiid. Embiid leads the league with 29.4 points and has scored at least 25 points in 30 straight games.
The pressure was on Philadelphia not to lose a season of its prime. And time is running out for Harden to win a championship. He averaged 25.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.7 assists during his career with Brooklyn, Houston and Oklahoma City. But none of his 12 seasons ended in a championship.
Rivers plans to catch up with Harden quickly.
“He literally just said the practices and the shootouts are now going to be more intense just because we have a limited time to figure it out,” guard Tyrese Maxey said.
Both Harden and Simmons were unhappy with their roles with their former teams. Simmons demanded an offseason trade as the pressure of playing in Philadelphia got to him, and Harden has now forced himself on a new team for the second year in a row.
Harden could have left this summer as a free agent. The Nets decided it wasn’t worth the wait, ending their Big Three experiment of Harden, Durant and Kyrie Irving after the trio played just 16 games together.
And Simmons had few fans in Philadelphia after deciding to sit out the season. The local ABC Philadelphia affiliate opened Thursday night’s show with the main story, “The man who refused to make a layup, then refused to play a season, is now a Brooklyn Net. “
The Simmons saga is over for the Sixers, and Rivers said, “I’m glad it’s behind us.”
Maxey, the second-year player who took over from Simmons at point guard, was close to Simmons but had yet to speak to his former teammate. He’s ready to go with Harden.
“It’s kind of crazy, just because he’s one of the guys you play with in 2K when you’re younger,” 21-year-old Maxey said. “One of my best friends I had all through high school, he’s like James Harden’s biggest fan when we were growing up. So I texted him last night, we talked about it a bit, and he’s like, this is crazy.
Sixers president Daryl Morey made the deal with a championship in mind this season, and now it’s up to Rivers to make it work after he failed to knock the Sixers out of the second round l ‘last year.
“I think the reason we made this deal is so we can jump into the fray,” Rivers said.