Kyrie Irving wasn’t exactly given a warm reception in Boston on Sunday afternoon, but that may be tame considering what could await Ben Simmons in Philadelphia on Thursday night.
It’s all but been confirmed that Simmons will not play in Thursday’s game. Simmons, who was traded to the Nets on Feb. 10 in a deal that sent James Harden to Philly, has been dealing with back soreness that has delayed his recondition work to get back on the court.
While Simmons won’t play, he is expected to be with the team and on the bench for Brooklyn’s game with the 76ers. It will mark the first time that Simmons will be back at Wells Fargo Center since June 20, 2021, when the Sixers lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Atlanta Hawks.
The saga that preceded Simmons’ eventual exit was one that did not sit well with Sixers fans. The three-time NBA All-Star requested a trade during the offseason and then told the team in October that he was not mentally ready to play for the team.
The reception isn’t expected to be a friendly one even with Simmons just on the bench. Irving told reporters on Sunday that he would be there for Simmons on and off the floor, but Irving expected the Nets’ newest star to shine whenever he does step onto the court in his former home.
“When he has a chance to play in Philly I think we’ll see him in his natural way,” Irving said. “We all react differently and we all prepare in our own ways. And me as one of the leaders on the team is just to be there for him and support him every moment when we’re out on the floor, off the floor a well. But, it’s never easy to get traded, to leave a team in free agency. We’ve seen people burn jerseys. We’ve seen people throw things from the crowd. we’ve seen fans go at it on social media. We’ve seen so much of our game be turned into somewhat of a spectacle for people to enjoy and cheer for, and the emotions run high.”
Irving has a better understanding than some about going into a hostile environment. The Nets superstar was booed at every turn on Sunday by Boston Celtics fans that were still upset that he had left for Brooklyn.
Irving had publically stated that he wanted to be in Boston long-term, but joined the Nets after two seasons with the Celtics.
Simmons is sure to hear it from the Wells Fargo Crowd, especially with him still not ready to take the court. Former teammate Danny Green publicly questioned if Simmons would play in the March 10 game on his podcast and on Monday during a hit on ESPN Stephen A. Smith accused Simmons of using his back soreness as an excuse not to play in Thursday’s game.
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“In terms of the criticism that people like to bring from watching from the audience or yelling things from the sideline and calling somebody out by their name, some people react differently,” Irving said. “People call me out on my name here in Boston or they’ve said some over-the-line things and it’s a natural reaction to go out and be able to respond. But ultimately we get paid a lot of money to do this. We have to keep our calm, we have to keep our cool and we have the refs out there to protect the game. We have our security and it’s just we want to go out there and enjoy it.
“I want Been to enjoy it and have fun doing what he loves to do, so going back to Philly of course is going to be crazy. Even for us.”