Joel Embiid: 76ers-Ben Simmons reunion ‘doesn’t have to be awkward’

Ben Simmons vowed to stay away and never return to the Philadelphia 76ers following critical comments from All-Star teammate Joel Embiid and marginal support from head coach Doc Rivers.

No trade gained traction and Simmons has returned to the team as the regular season is set to begin next week. In his most recent comments on the topic, Embiid said last week the situation was “borderline disrespectful.”

Simmons has not met with the media and his return Monday to take a COVID-19 test before the preseason tipoff between the Sixers and Brooklyn Nets was a “complete surprise,” according to reports.

“I think there’s going to be some adjustments, but it doesn’t need to be awkward,” Embiid said of Simmons rejoining the roster and ending a contentious holdout. “We’re all professionals. We want to win. He gives me the best chance to win. … We’re going to be fine.”

The Sixers continue to seek possible trade partners for Simmons, per ESPN. But Klutch CEO Rich Paul and the organization have been working around the clock to hammer out a path for the 6-foot-11 guard to remain a Sixer.

The Sixers withheld $8.25 million from Simmons in response to his holdout. Simmons’ contract called for two payments of $8.25 million before the season gets underway. He received the first payment Aug. 2. The team put the money in escrow, from which they will deduct fines Simmons racks up from his holdout.

Simmons’ fines were up to $1 million once he missed Monday night’s preseason game against Brooklyn, per ESPN.

Simmons hasn’t talked directly with 76ers’ officials since late August, when he requested a trade and reportedly made it clear he would not play for the team again.

A three-time All-Star, Simmons has averages of 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game over his four NBA seasons. The 25-year-old Australian is under contract for four more years after signing a five-year deal worth more than $177 million in 2020.

In last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals against the Hawks, Simmons passed on a wide-open dunk late in Game 7. The 76ers ended up losing to close their season.

Embiid said last week that the entire situation involving Simmons heading into the new season was “borderline disrespectful.” At issue for Simmons, in part, is playing with Embiid, per reports.

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