Ben Simmons won't be suiting up for the Nets in Thursday's road game against the 76ers. He will, however, join the team on the bench in his first game back at the Wells Fargo Center.
Simmons' return to Philadelphia is the most anticipated homecoming game since Kevin Durant made his Oklahoma debut as a Golden State Warrior. Boos were echoing through the Chesapeake Energy Arena that night; the same is bound to happen tomorrow.
Months-long frustrations will culminate on a date Sixers fans have had circled on their calendars for weeks. The only question is, is Simmons ready to face the music?
"Some people don't even enjoy basketball"
NBA fans, in general, tend to be ruthless. But the 76ers' fans are on another level. So while the likes of Doc Rivers think Simmons should get a video tribute by his former team, the only tribute the 3x All-Star is bound to get is the hostile environment he was once on the right side of.
With everything that was going on over the last few months -- trade request, mental health issues, tumultuous 76ers exit -- that might be too much for Simmons. But Nets' head coach Steve Nash thinks he's up to the challenge.
Following the Nets win in Charlotte, Kevin Durant was also asked whether he talked to Ben about what to expect from his return to the City of Brotherly Love. KD revealed that the two haven't really discussed it.
"I think part of the experience of coming to an NBA game is to heckle," Durant said. "Some people don't even enjoy basketball. Their lives are so sh--ty that they get to just aim it at other people, so it's easy to kind of get that release at a basketball game. Ben understands that."
"All the greats have been through being called the worst names in the history of the book," Durant continued. "The good thing about it is that we get a chance to perform and shut the people up."
Players vs. fans
Ben Simmons won't get his chance tomorrow. However, he might get it in this year's playoffs -- the Nets moved into eighth place after last night's win and could potentially face the 76ers in the first round.
If not, Simmons won't have to visit Philadelphia until next season. But no matter when the inevitable return happens, the fans' welcome will be as hostile as it gets. At that point, the 6-11 point guard will have no choice but to face it.
Simmons has been a target of criticism ever since he joined the NBA. Lack of a jump shot made him most fans' No.1 mocking option, while the Sixers nation valued him for everything else he was bringing to the table. Now, the tables have turned, and he's become Philly's persona non grata. With how passionate Sixers fans are, that title is here to stay.
Tomorrow, Simmons will get a taste of what's it like being on the wrong side of the Sixers Nation. Things will arguably get even worse when he returns there to play. But instead of overthinking it, Ben should just embrace it.
All the greats dealt with some form of adversity throughout their careers. This is Simmons' chance to get the best out of his.