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Sixers continue to embrace Ben Simmons amid controversy

Ben Simmons Sixers 76ers Joel Embiid Doc Rivers

Dating back to the offseason, the standoff between Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers has not been pretty. The former number one pick has done all he can to get himself a change of scenery.

Things looked to be heading in a positive direction when the 25-year-old spontaneously ended his holdout during the preseason. But his reintegration with the team has been far from a seamless transition. Simmons has looked physically and mentally disengaged in practice and even had to be removed from one session by Doc Rivers.

Throughout this saga, multiple players and coaches have said they want Simmons back with the team. Some may have disagreed with his actions but still acknowledged the group is at its best when he is on the floor.

These thoughts have not changed, even with how Simmons has conducted himself since his return. The Sixers continue to stick together to support and embrace him like they would anyone else.

The latest update in this saga has things appearing to be heading in the right direction. Reports came out Friday that Simmons had a talk with the team during shootaround and told them he is not mentally ready to join them on the court yet. While it still leaves a return date for Simmons unknown, he is finally starting to open back up to his teammates.

Later that day, Sixers players and coaches were asked their thoughts on Simmons’ message to the team. Rivers spoke about the interaction during his pregame media availability. “It was a productive day, but it’s a start. That’s the only way you can get going, you got to start, and today was a start,” he said.

Typically to previous home openers, Joel Embiid addressed the crowd before the action tipped off. Along with thanking the fans for being in attendance, he said everyone needs to support Simmons as he works his way back because “he’s still our teammate and our brother.”

The All-Star also spoke about the day’s events after the matchup against the Brooklyn Nets. “It was good, finally. It was the first time any of us heard him, but I thought it was good for the group. That’s the first step. That’s a start,” said Embiid.

Along with showing support to his Sixers teammate on social media, Tobias Harris said postgame that everyone needs to give Simmons space as he gets through this tough time.

“I think it’s a good start, but as I said, I think that at this time, we have to respect his privacy and space and be there for him throughout what he’s going and his process,” Harris said Friday.

Throughout this entire situation, the Sixers have been nothing but professionals. An off-the-court stalemate like this might derail most teams but actually might have brought the Sixers closer together as a group.

The way they continue to view Simmons as one of their own despite all the outside noise is a major testament to the work they’ve put in to improve their culture in the past two years.