PHILADELPHIA — Despite his role in one of the messiest team/player divorces in recent memory, Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons would welcome a return to the Philadelphia 76ers, he revealed in an interview with ESPN's Marc Spears.
“Obviously, the injury and everything that was going on didn’t help. But I think it gave me a chance to really appreciate it,” he said. “I’ll always have love for Philly. People always ask me like, ‘If you were to get traded again where you want it to be?’ I always say, ‘Just Philly. Philly is a second home to me.’ And in time, you learn and grow as people. I don’t really have anything bad to say about Philly. It was a crazy situation at the end, but it is what it is.”
Locked on 76ers host Keith Pompey reacted to the quote on a recent episode and discussed if a reunion between the two sides could actually happen after his holdout and subsequent trade to Brooklyn for James Harden in 2022.
"He realized the grass isn't always greener on the other side," Pompey said. "He felt betrayed by Doc Rivers...Doc is no longer here. [76ers GM] Daryl Morey, this is probably his last season, so if you're Ben you're like 'yeah I wouldn't mind going back.'"
Simmons was selected No. 1 overall in 2016, coming to Philadelphia with expectations to help lead the team, along with Joel Embiid, to the NBA Finals.
He showed plenty of promise early in his career, winning the 2018 Rookie of the Year Award, making three All-Star teams, and even getting an All-NBA nod in 2019-20, but his inability to develop a consistent jump shot eventually tanked his confidence, and mental and physical health issues resulted in Simmons holding out for the entire 2021-22 season, souring his relationship with the fan base and resulting in a trade to Brooklyn which brought Harden to Philadelphia.
Simmons returned to the court last season with Brooklyn, playing in 42 games and averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 boards, and 6.1 assists before getting shut down again with back issues.
The 27-year-old is far from a guarantee to ever return to the form that made him an All-Star in the first place, but a 6'10 point guard with his defensive instincts is still a tantalizing player if he can get and stay healthy. His dream of returning to Philadelphia is likely going to remain just that, but with Harden's unhappiness bubbling to the surface and rumors of Embiid potentially wanting out as well, it is possible a blow up could result in Simmons and his massive contract back in the city of Brotherly Love.
While that may be what Simmons wants, it would take a lot of work to win back that fan base.