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Surprised Joel Embiid: 76ers were built around Ben Simmons

May 29, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) celebrates with 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) against the Washington Wizards in the third quarter during game three in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
May 29, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) celebrates with 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) against the Washington Wizards in the third quarter during game three in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Simmons might have expressed that he was done playing with Joel Embiid, but the Philadelphia 76ers big man refused to express the same sentiment from the third day of training camp Thursday.

In fact, Embiid seemed to suggest that Simmons take a harder look at himself without directly calling out his teammate.

In a week’s worth of back-and-forth, where Simmons reportedly no longer wanted to play for the 76ers, and Embiid saying he was “disappointed” in Simmons’ desire to move on in a trade, it was Embiid expressing more exasperation Thursday.

Simmons has not yet reported to training camp.

“Our teams have always been built around his needs, so it was kind of surprising to see what was said,” Embiid said of Simmons’ reported declaration that his partnership with Embiid has run its course.

“Even going back to the reason we signed Al (Horford and) we got rid of Jimmy (Butler), which I still think was a mistake,” Embiid said. “But (Simmons) needed the ball in his hands and that’s the decision they made. But, like I said, it is surprising. But I’m really focused on the guys that are here.”

Simmons’ inability — or unwillingness — to take shots proved costly during last season’s playoff series with the Atlanta Hawks. He also drew criticism for his performance at the foul line. He made just 34.2 percent of his attempts (25 of 73) in 12 playoff games after shooting 61.3 percent during the regular season.

Yet Embiid and head coach Doc Rivers have said the 76ers are a better team with Simmons on the court. Simmons, though, appears headed for a fresh start, if Philadelphia is unable to resolve the current rift and a trade partner can be found.

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“The situation is weird, disappointing, borderline kind of disrespectful to all the guys that are out here fighting for their lives,” said Embiid, a four-time All-Star who has averaged 24.8 points and 11.3 rebounds over his first five NBA seasons. “Some guys rely on the team to be successful, to stay in the league and make money somehow. Because, if you’re on a winning team, you’re always going to have a spot in the league, just because you’re on a winning team and you contributed.

“Obviously we’re a better team with him. We’re not a better team without him, that’s for sure. We are a better team with him but, like I said, it is surprising. But I’m focused on the guys that are here.”

The 76ers made Simmons the No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft. He sat out his first campaign with a foot injury, but in 275 games over four seasons, he is averaging 15.9 points, 7.7 assists and 8.1 rebounds. His 2020-21 averages — 14.3 points, 6.9 assists and 7.2 rebounds — were career lows.

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–Field Level Media