Joel Embiid never wanted to split with Ben Simmons. He made that clear on media day this year as he publicly claimed he would like to reunite with his All-Star Sixers teammate for another run during the 2021-2022 NBA season.
At that point, Simmons had already requested a trade and started his planned holdout. Although he was absent throughout training camp and the preseason, Embiid never changed his mind. He wants to continue to play with Ben Simmons.
But everybody has a breaking point. Earlier this week, it seemed Embiid was reaching his. During Simmons' third practice with the team on Tuesday, the All-Star guard got himself kicked out after being an unwilling participant. After getting booted by Doc Rivers, Simmons landed a one-game suspension.
Shortly after Tuesday's practice session concluded, Embiid addressed the situation in front of a crowd of reporters. To no surprise, he didn't hold back.
"At this point, I don't care about that man," Embiid said Tuesday. "He does whatever he wants. That's not my job. That's [the front office's] job. I'm only focused on trying to make the team better, win some games, play hard every night, try to lead the guys we have here, and I'm sure they feel the same way. Our chemistry has been happening the last few months. So like I said, I don't really care. That's his problem. I'm only focused on what we've been doing. As a team, we're going to be fine."
When Embiid sounded off on the disgruntled star, he had yet to actually have a discussion with Simmons. Despite unsuccessfully connecting with Simmons over the summer, Embiid was still willing to mend his working relationship with Simmons as long as the 25-year-old guard would seriously work on things.
On Tuesday, Embiid made it clear he wasn't going to "babysit" Simmons as his focus remains on winning. But since Simmons stepped up and addressed his teammates on Friday, Embiid feels that things are moving in a positive direction.
"It was good," said Embiid after Friday night's loss to the Brooklyn Nets. "Finally, that was the first time any of us heard it. I thought it was good for the group. That's the first step. That's a start. Like I always say, that's the front office. Hopefully, they figure out what's best, obviously, for the team because this is a business. We're trying to find ways to win, and for us, we have a big opportunity."
From the start of the Ben Simmons saga, Embiid made it apparent he wants to have Simmons back on the floor with the team. While the All-Star duo is seemingly taking baby steps to reunite on the court -- any step forward in a positive direction is a good sign for the Sixers, who need to find a way to erase all distractions and have everybody on the court as there is a long season ahead.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.