Nets’ Ben Simmons booed as Sixers spoil his Philadelphia return

PHILADELPHIA — Ben Simmons knew exactly what kind of reception he was going to get from Sixers fans at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night. After going through a controversial divorce with the team that ranked him No. 1 overall in 2016 and forcing his way out of Philadelphia before the start of last season, he knew fans would be vocal about their anger in a variety of ways .

But after nearly hitting a triple-double with 11 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds for the Brooklyn Nets in a 115-106 loss to the Sixers, Simmons said he’s just glad he got another emotional one on his return took a hurdle.

“I feel in a good place,” Simmons said after the game. “I’m happy, I’m doing what I love. So to be out there and have that experience was amazing. Obviously, it wasn’t the result we wanted. It’s frustrating to lose a game like that, but I think , it’s a good step forward.”

Like last season, when Simmons sat out the Nets’ win over the Sixers while recovering from a back injury, fans chanted “F—Ben Simmons!” all night and booed him whenever he landed the ball.

After it was over Tuesday, Simmons couldn’t help but smile at the reception, saying, “I thought it was going to get louder.”

While Simmons admitted he would likely get the same reaction “forever” in Philadelphia, his teammates and coaches in Brooklyn were proud of how he embraced the moment and took the next hurdle in his recovery after offseason back surgery.

“I think it’s a mental hurdle to overcome,” Nets guard Kyrie Irving said of Simmons. “He played very well before a game and then came in tonight. I think he played well tonight. And we just have to be there for each other and support each other.”

Nets star forward Kevin Durant, who went through a similar return leg when he first returned to Oklahoma City in February 2017 after signing with the Golden State Warriors, shared Irving’s sentiment.

“There’s a lot of emotion,” Durant said. “You just want to play well. We know the fans will join in and get upset – not upset, just do their best. But that’s the way it is in every arena. Everyone wants to see our team fail. Nobody likes Ben, nobody likes Ky, nobody likes myself, so it could be in any street arena.

“So it’s just something we have to deal with. But I thought [Simmons] did a great job just handling it and playing his game and we had chances to win but we just didn’t do it.”

When asked why he thinks so many people don’t like the Nets, Durant said, “It’s probably a lot of things that contribute to it. But if NBA fans don’t like you, they really have love for you. It’s just misplaced love I guess. But we get it. At the end of the day, people enjoy watching us play.”

Durant noted that Philadelphia fans treated Simmons the way they did simply because he decided he wanted to play for a different team in a different city.

“I think they all had a lot of great memories of Ben and they don’t like the way it ended,” Durant said, adding that Sixers fans “want to vent their frustration.”

“They feel part of the team, part of the league, so the fans want to be heard,” he said. “Over the last ten years in the NBA, a lot of fans have been heard with social media and how we highlight the fans these days. You have to appreciate both sides. That’s part of the game. I think Ben understands that. We all understand that. The fans really respect us as men but there is a part of the sport [that includes] Heckling to be targeted out there. It’s all part of it.”

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/35088687/nets-ben-simmons-booed-sixers-spoil-philadelphia-return Nets’ Ben Simmons booed as Sixers spoil his Philadelphia return

Emma Bowman

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