SIXERS JOJO CALLS B. S. ON RUMORED RIFT WITH BENNY!

By Harvey Hoffman

Joel Embiid took the All Star opportunity yesterday to knock down the chatter that he and fellow Sixers All-Star Ben Simmons don’t play well together.

“I think it’s B.S.,” Embiid said yesterday before All-Star practice, “because when you look at the last couple years, the last two years that we’ve been playing together, it’s not a problem. This year it’s only been a problem because our offense has struggled.

“It’s definitely going to be better after the All-Star break. I mean, just look at the last two years, what we’ve been able to do. I think it can work, and it’s going to work.”

As Embiid said, the issues for him and Simmons come — like they do for the Sixers in general — on the offensive end.

“It takes time,” Simmons said. “Not everything is perfect. Not everything works right away. I love playing with Joel. I think he’s an amazing talent, a guy I respect for his game, and I know he feels the same way about me. We continue to go the right way.

“There’s so many different things that we haven’t tried. We’ve got a lot of talent. It’s scary how good we can be.”

It will also help if the Sixers can keep their whole team on the court, as both Embiid and Josh Richardson have spent lengthy periods on the sideline with injuries. They should be operating at full strength coming out of the All-Star break, however, and will need things to stay that way in order to get back into the mix for a top seed in the East playoffs. Philadelphia currently sits two losses behind the Miami Heat for fourth place in the East, five behind the Boston Celtics for third and six behind the Toronto Raptors for second.

Meanwhile, when the Sixers open up against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday in Philly, Embiid said that one other important thing will be different: the old version of himself — the trash-talking, social media-using one that disappeared for much of the first half of the season, only to reappear last weekend — is officially back for good.

“Because I’m back to being myself,” he said with a smile. “I think it starts with me, especially with the way we’ve been struggling on the road. Just me bringing our passion back, and I’ve always had the passion, but I haven’t been able to show it because I’ve been trying to be a changed man, I guess. It’s just me going back to being myself and having fun and talking trash, and I think it’s going to help a lot.”

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