By Harry Allison
Joel Embiid had 30 points and 14 rebounds in his return from a sprained left shoulder, and the Sixers beat the Detroit Pistons 124-106 in one of the last NBA games before the league suspended season because of the coronavirus.
Coach Brett Brown defended the decision to play the game — the 76ers announced a sellout crowd of 20,172 — in the wake of the virus that has spoiled sports around the globe.
“The instruction was to come in and play the game,” Brown said. “If you look at the proactive measures our club has taken, and that the league has taken, I think they should be applauded. It’s a sensitive issue, obviously. It must be a very serious situation for the league to make the decision that they have made. We look forward to learning more over the next few hours, really.”
Brown didn’t need a quiet arena to hear the reverberation throughout Philly when Jimmy Butler went on former Sixers teammate JJ Redick’s podcast and ripped his coaching style. Butler, who played the final 55 games of last season with the Sixers, said, “On any given day, me as a person, as a player, I didn’t know who the (expletive) was in charge. I think that was my biggest thing.”
Butler said players watched film sessions in silence and became peeved when he said he learned the organization wanted Brown to “control” the All-Star guard. Butler decided not to return to the Sixers and landed in Miami on a sign-and-trade deal.
“I heard about, I understand what he’s saying,” Brown said. “I have not listened to it and I doubt I will.”
Simmons missed his eighth straight game and will continue to undergo daily treatment for his nerve impingement. He is gradually increasing the activities in his strength and conditioning program and there’s a shot the 23-year-old Simmons is back for the playoffs, should they resume.
“There’s no timeline on it,” Simmons said before the game. “Whenever I’m back, I’m back. Whenever I’m 100 percent, I’m coming back. I’m not here to sit and just wait. When I’m healthy, I’ll be playing.”
Simmons said he feels no pain in his back and hasn’t considered surgery if there’s not much more improvement.
“To know where I am compared to two weeks ago, I feel much, much better,” Simmons said. “I’m very confident.”
So that left Embiid to raise the spirits of maybe 15,000 fans at the Wells Fargo Center, a night after the NHL’s Flyers hit 19,000 in the same arena. The Sixers averaged 20,643 this season, and the priciest tickets in town dipped faster than Detroit’s shooting percentage. StubHub had tickets for sale on the lower baseline at $15 a pop and seats in one club box were going for $20. That’s hundreds less than usual secondary markup.