Ben Simmons reacts to boos from 76ers fans upon return to Philadelphia: ‘I thought it was going to be louder’

Ben Simmons made his highly-anticipated return to Philadelphia as a member of the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night to face off against the 76ers. It was Simmons’ first game played in the city since Game 7 of the 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals — the game in which he infamously passed up on a dunk opportunity in the closing minutes of what would be his last contest as a member of the Sixers. Simmons never played another game with the Sixers after that, as he requested a trade — a wish that was ultimately granted when he was moved to Brooklyn in exchange for James Harden in February. 

The Nets played in Philadelphia once after the trade last season, but Simmons was sidelined for the contest. This time around, though, he was prepared to play, and the crowd was prepared for him. Simmons was met with boos as soon as he hit the floor during warmups, and those boos only intensified as the arena filled up and fans found their seats. 

Injury issues squeezed a lot of the juice out of this matchup, as the Sixers were without their three best players in Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, and Harden. The crowd didn’t seem to mind too much, though, as those in attendance made sure to bring the energy when Simmons was introduced. 

In reality, the response was a bit more subdued than expected, but the boos didn’t end with pregame introductions. Simmons was met with jeers upon all of his touches throughout the contest. The noise grew especially loud when Simmons was at the free-throw line. He went three of six from the line overall, though he missed two consecutive attempts in the second half, much to the delight of Sixers fans because his struggles resulted in free chicken nuggets from Chick-fil-A through the in-arena promotion. 

After a lot of build-up heading into the game, the reception was a bit underwhelming overall. Simmons seemed to think so, at least, as he reveled that he expected more after the game. “I thought it was going to be louder,” he said. 

Simmons has been playing his best basketball of the season over the past week or so, as he has started to look more comfortable and confident out on the floor after missing all of last season. That trend continued in hostile territory, as Simmons came out aggressive when it came to setting up his teammates. He had four assists to go along with four points in the first frame, and he even pulled out an M.J.-inspired shrug after sinking two straight free throws. 

In all, Simmons had a decent game. He finished with 11 points, 11 assists, and seven rebounds in 32 minutes. He was a no-show down the stretch of the game, however, as he didn’t record a single point or assist in the fourth quarter, and the Nets clearly could have used some production from him at that time. 

In a close contest, the Sixers outscored the Nets 30-24 in the final frame to pull out an improbable 115-106 win. Tobias Harris led Philadelphia with 24 points and six rebounds, and De’Anthony Melton added 22 points and four assists of his own. Paul Reed (19 points and  10 rebounds) and Georges Niang (16 points and five rebounds) both also stepped up in a big way for Philadelphia off of the bench. In addition to Simmons’ production. Kyrie Irving had 23 points for Brooklyn and Kevin Durant added 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. 

The fact that a Sixers squad sans Embiid, Harden and Maxey was able to take down a healthy Nets squad playing all of their own big three makes this game one of the more improbable outcomes of the season so far. 

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