Ben Simmons was the subject of criticism from fans and analysts after the Philadelphia 76ers succumbed to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The point guard struggled at the free-throw line, leaving his team in a vulnerable position against Trae Young and co. In the end, they lost the series in seven games; all the fingers pointed at Simmons as the responsible for this collapse.
Although most people around the league will agree that Simmons is to blame in this situation, not everybody thinks that way. In fact, NBA writer Spencer Davies of Basketball News came in Ben's defense, going after Doc Rivers' decisions during the series as well as the fact that Joel Embiid played with an injury.
There’s got to be a line in the sand here when it comes to the Ben Simmons ordeal.
Did he perform up to par on the offensive end in a winner-take-all Game 7? No. Does he deserve the criticism he is receiving? Yes... if it were strictly coming from fans and media alike. But teammates and coaches? The buck’s got to stop before it gets there.
“I mean, I'll be honest. I thought the turning point was when we — I don't know how to say it — but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw and we missed the other and then they came down and scored,” Joel Embiid said following the loss.
“I just assumed Gallo was coming over my back,” Simmons said. “And then Collins moved out, so I thought we just had a wide-open dunk.”
But the way that Embiid and Philadelphia's first-year head coach Doc Rivers have discussed the matter is not helpful. Rivers was asked directly about whether Simmons can be the point guard for a championship team.
“I don't know the answer to that question right now,” Rivers responded.
So... that’s not exactly a way to instill confidence in a player that’s clearly lacking it. Not to mention that neither Rivers, nor Embiid took much of the responsibility for the role they played in not getting the job done. In any book, it goes down like this: You win as a team, you lose as a team.
For Rivers, he could reflect on how he could've done a better job in Game 1 instead of leaving Danny Green on Trae Island, or maybe the fact that he could've tightened up the rotation in a win-or-go-home Game 7 (and yes, there was foul trouble, but all bets are off at that point). Having the guys come out of the locker room in quarters three and four with focus for half of this series would’ve helped, too.
Regarding Embiid, there’s not too much you can go at him for, as he played on a bum knee all series and most of the postseason. He did give it his all. However, if you’re going to play injured and tough it out, there will be critics when you don’t get the job done.
Davies isn't happy with how the other two voices on the team handled this situation, putting Simmons in a very bad position in public. Yes, there were frustrating moments during the series, but their words only fueled the Simmons slander.
Now rumors are putting the Australian out of Philly despite his desire to remain with the team. It looks like the experiment of Embiid and Simmons didn't work, and the Sixers need to change things before their championship window closes.