Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid is ready to move on from the Ben Simmons-related drama that has been hanging over the organization for the entirety of the current campaign. The Sixers traded Simmons -- along with Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two future first-round picks -- to the Brooklyn Nets for James Harden and Paul Millsap prior to the NBA's trade deadline earlier this week. The move ended an extremely eventful, ugly saga, and Embiid is now just happy to be able to put it all behind him.
"I'm happy that I'm not going to have to answer any more questions on that subject," Embiid said following Philadelphia's 100-87 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night. "It's good, not just for me, but my teammates, the whole organization. This whole year, it was pretty annoying with the whole situation. I'm glad that everybody has moved on. I wish everybody the best in whatever they want to accomplish. I'm focused on winning games here and trying to win a championship."
While Embiid is ready to move on, he also characterized the deterioration of his on-court relationship with Simmons as "unfortunate," pointing to the success that the duo was able to achieve during the regular season despite an objectively clunky fit. During the four seasons that the pair played together, the Sixers never posted a winning percentage below 58. However, despite their shared success, Embiid has come to believe that being a star on his own team is more important to Simmons than winning at a high level.
"Like I've always said, it's unfortunate how everything happened, because you look at the history and we didn't get it done as far as winning in the playoffs, but you look at the history of us being on the court, what we did in the regular season. We were dominant," Embiid said. "So, it's unfortunate that winning wasn't the biggest factor [for him]. It's unfortunate that for him, having his own team and being the star was more of his priorities. I always thought that everything was great, the fit was great. But unfortunately Ben thought that it wasn't. But we all move on."
Embiid is losing Simmons as a running mate, but he's gaining Harden -- a former MVP, future Hall-of-Famer and one of the most prolific scorers that the NBA has ever seen. Understandably, the big man is excited about the pair's potential. "It's James Harden," Embiid replied when asked about his reaction to the trade, before shouting out his other teammates that departed in the deal.
"[It] sucks to lose some of my teammates," Embiid said. "Seth [Curry] did a great job for us in the year-and-a-half he was here, [Andre Drummond] was as good as any backup that we've had in Philly since I've been here. So, you know, it sucks to lose him, but you know it's James Harden and he is one of the best players in the league, MVP. I'm pretty excited. You add someone like that your chances to win a championship get even bigger, so I'm just excited to get on with it and try to figure out how to put it all together as a team and go from there."
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Embiid said that Harden will "probably" be the best player that he's ever suited up alongside at this point in his career -- a statement that is objectively true. Embiid has played with some strong players in Philadelphia (Jimmy Butler comes to mind immediately), but none have been on Harden's level offensively. Harden's sheer presence out on the floor should open things up in a major way for Embiid -- who consistently faces double or even triple teams -- and vice versa.
"I think the way to look at it, every single time I touch a ball, there's a double or triple team which is gonna make my teammates and [Harden] even better," Embiid said. "So now you really got a choice. Are you going to double me or are you going to double him? So you got to make that decision and based on every game it might change."
Given his abilities on the offensive end, Harden projects to be a better fit alongside Embiid than Simmons ever was. That's on paper, though. Now the newly formed duo has to go out and execute. The potential is extremely high, but so are the expectations, and there won't be any excuses if the Sixers fail to meet them.