The boo birds will be out on Thursday when Ben Simmons returns to South Philadelphia with the Nets. Simmons won’t be on the court, but the newest member of the Nets will be on the bench, head coach Steve Nash confirmed to reporters on Tuesday in Charlotte.
Simmons has not been with the team through the first two games of its road trip this week, but will make the drive down the New Jersey Turnpike to sit with his teammates as they face his former club.
“It’s great. He’s on our team, he needs to be with his teammates and get the whole Philly thing out of the way a little bit,” Nash said, according to ESPN. “Maybe it never goes away, but the first time it’s always nice to kind of deal with it and move on.”
The expected reception is that the Well Fargo Center will feel more like the Roman Colosseum as Sixers finally have their chance to speak their peace over Simmons’ exit. His departure has left a sour taste in the mouths of Philadelphia fans after he requested a trade in the offseason and cited mental health reasons for sitting out the season.
Now in Brooklyn Simmons has emerged reengaged in the sport and with his new teammates. Nash doesn’t think the experience could be harmful to Simmmons and he doesn’t think the Nets superstar is under any misconception of how the night will go.
“I don’t think he’s naive to think he’s not going to get some boos,” Nash said. “I hope he enjoys it. It’s a part of the game I miss.”
The fans in the City of Brotherly Love are sure to have some extra vengeance behind their boos after the Philly Voice reported on Tuesday that league sources were expecting Simmons and his team to file a formal grievance against the 76ers. The move is expected to take place in the coming days in order for Simmons to recoup the money that he lost during his time there, according to the report.
It was even suggested that Simmons’ decision to travel for Thursday’s game and the expected reception was part of the case that his team was planning to build against the Sixers. The report suggested that a “playoff-level crew” in terms of security is expected to be on hand for the game between the Eastern Conference rivals.
The Philly Voice report did indicate that the 76ers were in a strong position to defend against the grievance if or when one is filed.
Simmons has not played for the Nets yet since he was traded to Brooklyn on Feb. 10 in a deal that sent James Harden to Philadelphia. There is still no timetable for Simmons to return to game action.
He has been working to get back into game shape, but suffered a setback and has been dealing with back soreness. The Nets have never given a timeline for when Simmons would make his debut in black and white.
“It’s to be determined,” Nash said about Simmons’ debut. “I think he’s progressing this week, but I don’t know what that means as far as Saturday. So he’ll see us in Philly. I don’t think he’s ready for 5-on-5 basketball but he’s improving, working out, and he’ll join us in Philly, and a few good days of rehab.”