June 20th, 2021 was the date of Game 7 against the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Simmons went for 5 points, 13 assists, and 8 rebounds across 36 minutes of play.
All of it culminating with him passing out of a wide-open dunk attempt with 3:29 left in the game and the Sixers down two.
Ben Simmons passing up dunks now??pic.twitter.com/qovIypu2wZ
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) June 21, 2021
It was the visual representation of Simmons’ mental struggles crescendoing into one final play.
Since being drafted first overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, the one knock on his game had been his shooting.
He could not (or would not) shoot jumpers consistently.
While it was rarely a problem in the regular season, playoff-caliber defenses used that flaw against Philly.
Teams would play off him and double Joel Embiid, forcing countless turnovers and stonewalling the Sixers’ offense.
Yet year after year, Simmons seemingly refused to work on the biggest detriment to his game.
The criticism finally wore him down.
He shot a combined 25-73 from the foul line in last year’s playoffs and became nearly unplayable.
Simmons received plenty of criticism and hate from the Philadelphia faithful.
But with him finally out of town, there is no reason to continue the attacks.
Sixers True Contenders With Harden
As much as Sixers brass and players tried to make people believe, the Sixers were never truly contenders with Simmons on the roster.
His inability to shoot the basketball always made his pairing with Embiid tricky.
Even with three shooters surrounding them, the offensive spacing would occasionally struggle.
Being able to trade a non-shooter for Harden has made Philadelphia legitimate title contenders this year.
Since acquiring Harden, the Sixers are 5-1.
James Harden in 5 games with the Sixers:
— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 8, 2022
The lone loss came with Harden sitting on the second night of a back-to-back against the East-leading Miami Heat.
Philly has scored at least 120 points in each game Harden has played with wins against the Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Chicago Bulls.
While the Timberwolves and Bulls may not be staunch defenses, the Cavaliers and Knicks rank first and eighth, respectively, in terms of points allowed per game.
Tougher teams await, but the early returns are very encouraging.
Embiid finally has an elite teammate whose offensive game pairs well with his own.
And the Sixers in general have a player who can create their own shot in crunch time.
The Simmons criticism from fans was warranted to a degree.
But continuing to hate on Simmons when he brought back Harden is unnecessary.
It is time to move on to bigger and better things.
Don’t Help Simmons’ Grievance Case
Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice reported on Tuesday that Simmons and his team are reportedly set to file a formal grievance against the 76ers in the coming days.
And Simmons and Klutch Sports Group are hoping the fan reaction Thursday will provide the groundwork for the grievance.
A grievance from Ben Simmons and his representation is expected to be filed soon, with the reception he encounters at Thursday's Sixers-Nets game serving as a potential piece of their case to recoup money he lost in fines this season. Story: https://t.co/kT9D1x0P5N
— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) March 8, 2022
The Sixers fined Simmons upwards of $20 million due to him missing practices, games, and other team activities.
Simmons hopes to recoup this money by showing the negativity displayed by fans is Exhibit A as to why he could not fulfill his contractual duties.
Every Philly fan in the arena Thursday will have the urge to boo Simmons back to Brooklyn.
But that will only end up helping Simmons and hurting the franchise.
If Philly fans really want to get back at Simmons, they will ignore him on Thursday.