Ben Simmons missed the entire 2021-22 season with injury and, while he was off the floor, the Philadelphia 76ers traded him to the Brooklyn Nets in a deal centered on James Harden. With that in mind, Simmons has not played a game at Wells Fargo Center since June 2021 when the Sixers fell to the Atlanta Hawks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. On Tuesday, that changed with Simmons returning to Philadelphia in an opposing uniform for the first time, and he was greeted with boos from the crowd.
Simmons seemed to be in good spirits before the game, telling TNT’s Stephanie Ready that he “had the same feelings toward the crowd” when he was with the Sixers. Philadelphia will also be without several key pieces, including Harden and Joel Embiid due to injury. There was an uptick in police presence, though, with the local officials taking no chances in what could’ve been an antagonistic atmosphere.
On the floor, Simmons is off to a slow start this season, though he has shown strides in the last handful of games. That includes three straight games with double figures in scoring, headlined by 22 points, eight rebounds, and five assists on Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies. It will be interesting to see how he responds to the return to Philadelphia but, after the first time, perhaps it will become more “normal” in time given the close proximity between Atlantic Division rivals.