It wasn’t as loud as people expected it to be inside Wells Fargo Center, Ben Simmons included. Perhaps the subdued homecoming was more the product of a great showing from the Philadelphia 76ers during a surprisingly easy 115-106 win.
Brooklyn Nets coach Jacque Vaughn pulled his starters with roughly 3 minutes left. The game was out of reach, and all the Philly fans who bought tickets solely to boo Simmons started heading for the exits. But, to say it wasn’t loud at times would be an understatement. There were plenty of NSFW chants for three-plus quarters in what was surely an emotionally draining night for everyone.
After the game, Nets star Kevin Durant attempted to put it all in perspective from his perch in the post-game press conference room in South Philly. He even channeled his inner Jason Kelce and played the “Nobody Likes Us” card.
“It’s a lot of emotion, a lot of you just want to play well,” Durant told reporters. “You know the fans are going to be involved and be excited, not excited but bring their best. That’s with every arena. Everybody wants to see our team fail, nobody likes Ben [Simmons], nobody likes Ky [Kyrie Irving], nobody likes myself, so it might be like that at every road arena, you know what I’m saying? So, it’s just something that we have to deal with. I thought he did a great job of just handling it and playing his game and we had a chance to win, and we just didn’t.”
Durant is no stranger to emotion, especially when it comes to interacting with fans. He’s never been afraid to express his opinion. Vice versa, Durant tried to put himself in the shoes of the Philly fans serenading his teammate with negative energy.
“I think they had a lot of great memories with Ben, but they didn’t like how it ended,” Durant said. “They didn’t like how it ended and how he moved on and went to another team, and they want to voice their frustrations. They feel like they are a part of the team and a part of the league, so the fans want to be heard.
“And the last decade of the NBA, a lot of fans have been heard … on social media and how we highlight the fans nowadays, and we gotta appreciate that’s part of the game. And I think Ben understands that and we all understand that. The fans really respect us at the end [of the day], but it’s a part of sports, heckling and being targeted out there. It’s all part of it.”
Ben Simmons Comments on Philadelphia Homecoming
It wasn’t all bad for Ben Simmons on Tuesday night. Prior to tip-off, the former franchise cornerstone paraded into the stands to sign autographs and pose for pictures with a few loyal supporters. He was smiles and accommodated every request in what turned out to be one of his lone highlights from the evening.
“It was nice to see that I have support in Philadelphia still, that was really cool to see,” Simmons said. “That’s a nice feeling. I think I did some things in Philadelphia that can be respected and appreciated.”
Once the whistle blew, it was a different story. Any cheers coming down from the stands was muted by the sounds of people chanting “F*** Ben Simmons,” except for the ovation he got after bricking two free throws and earning everyone in Philadelphia free chicken nuggets. No matter the case, Simmons wasn’t bothered by any of it.
“They weren’t out there on the floor, so I didn’t feel like they were going to be an issue either way,” Simmons said of the Philly fans. “So, it was loud in there, whatever, the chants … but, for me, I just have to focus on playing the game and making sure I was making the right plays for my teammates.”
Doc Rivers Compared Atmosphere to Boxing Match
There was a nice scene of Doc Rivers and Ben Simmons embracing at the end of the game. Rumors of a fractured relationship stemming from Rivers’ comments after that controversial 2021 playoff loss to Atlanta seemed like ancient history. Yes, there was a lot of build-up for this Nets-Sixers matchup but it was more for the fans. The Sixers harnessed that energy and used it to their advantage.
“There was so much talk about the game and what was going to happen instead of the basketball part,” Rivers said. “We had two days and you can tell our guys wanted to win the game. They really wanted to win the game and that was what was on their mind. I thought the fans were phenomenal and they helped for sure. The atmosphere was one of those like a boxing atmosphere. That’s what it felt like.”