Star Duo Seeks to Take Partnership to Next Level

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

It was just a snapshot, one of hundreds if not thousands from a 48-minute regular season NBA game.

It was also hard to miss.

Early in Monday’s fourth quarter, with the pesky Cleveland Cavaliers refusing to go quietly, the 76ers were presented with a transition scoring opportunity.

There were the franchise’s two foundational pieces, barreling down the middle of the floor on parallel planes, in perfect lock step.

Ben Simmons drove the left side of the lane, Joel Embiid the right.

The former flipped up a pass to the latter, who made a nice catch on the run, split traffic, and layed in an energizing basket to put the Sixers up by nine points. With momentum carrying him forward, Embiid then tumbled to the baseline.

Simmons, however, didn't realize what had happened, and already started his sprint back up the floor. But as soon as Cleveland whistled for a timeout a second later, the reigning Rookie of the Year bounded back towards his big man.

The tandem met under the bucket for an enthusiastic shoulder bump to celebrate their successful sequence.

Again, a brief, isolated moment, but the interaction spoke to a broader theme - that Simmons and Embiid, the Sixers’ young, All-Star cornerstones, have continued to take ownership of their club as it approaches the most important juncture of the season.

Further capturing this sentiment were comments Simmons made in a recent interview on ESPN.

“We’ve only played about a season and a half together. It’s just the start of our careers. [Joel and I] remind ourselves that a lot - we want to stay and win championships for the city.”

Brought to the attention of Brett Brown, Simmons’ remarks resonated.

“I’ve been in those [types of] conversations and instigated many in my first years with those two,” Brown said Thursday following a practice session at the 76ers Training Complex. “Coach talk and words from a coach go so far, but you really hope it resonates. I completely believe, and full credit to Ben and Joel, that as they have gotten older they understand they need each other.”

The locker room has taken notice, too.

“For sure,” said JJ Redick. “I think there’s a partnership there that they’ve begun to figure out. For our team, for our program, for this organization, that’s obviously extremely important.”

One day it might be Embiid rebounding for Simmons during practice or warm-up drills. The next, it could be a shoulder bump after a big play.

Either way, the duo’s dynamic has only gotten stronger this season.

“As time has unfolded, they act like they believe, and now they’re saying it,” Brown said, referring to both Simmons and Embiid increasingly recognizing the significance of their relationship. “I see those two getting older, understanding the partnership, responsibility, and opportunity they both have.”

A development that figures to time out quite nicely, with the playoffs right around the corner.