The Philadelphia 76ers have been one of the best teams in the NBA this season. Clearly, Doc Rivers brought a much-needed breath of fresh air and the team is finally living up to its potential after some ups and downs under Brett Brown's tutelage.
Most of the credit - obviously - has to go to their star duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, two of the leading candidates for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year; respectively.
That's why it was such a massive blow for them to find out that Embiid will be sidelined for a couple of weeks after suffering a knee injury, meaning that Simmons will be asked to lead the team without their top scorer:
“I just got to keep that same mentality I’ve had in the first part of the season. Obviously, when I saw it, everyone was devastated, but we were fortunate it wasn’t anything crazier than what it is. We’re blessed in that sense, but for us, now we got to keep going and win these games, no matter who’s out there. That’s an opportunity for somebody to step forward and contribute," Simmons explained, as quoted by USA Today.
The former first-overall pick added that the team has to endure this time without Embiid with a 'next-man-up' mentality if they want to clinch the first seed in the Eastern Conference, as hard as it may be:
“We got to do it," Simmons said. "This is a situation I think everybody realizes that it is what it is. So everyone has to step up and play their part, know we’re competing for a championship. This isn’t a team that’s just trying to make the playoff. We want to hold the first seed and win a championship so we know that takes. We got all the pieces; everyone just needs to stay locked in.
The Sixers have a strong core and a big shot to put an end to their drought and make it back to the NBA Finals. Hopefully, Embiid will be back sooner rather than later and fully healthy for the playoffs.