On Tuesday night, Brooklyn Nets veteran Ben Simmons will make his highly-anticipated return to Philadelphia to face his former team, the Philadelphia 76ers.
While Simmons showed face at the Wells Fargo Center during the Sixers and the Nets’ final regular season matchup of the 2021-2022 season last March, Simmons was ruled out due to a back injury.
This time around, the three-time All-Star is on pace to suit up and play.
“It feels good to be back,” said Simmons on Tuesday morning. “It does feel good to be back. I’m ready to go. I’m locked in.”
Simmons faced the hostile Philadelphia environment as a member of the opposition during pregame warmups last year, so he has an idea of what to expect when he takes the floor on Tuesday.
While Simmons knows what to expect, he’s trying to keep the focus on his team and not his return to Philadelphia.
“For us, it's not about, you know, everything else that's going on,” Simmons continued. “It's about, you know, us competing against the opposition in Philadelphia. So, we're here to get a win. And that's priority, so we got to stay locked in. I have to [stay focused on that]. If we want to be a great team, I got to do that. That’s on me to do that. It will be a lot, but I gotta do that as a leader of the team.”
While Simmons anticipates a hostile environment that is unlikely to give him a warm reception based on the drama that transpired over the past season, the former Sixers All-Star is embracing the moment and looks forward to what’s to come in South Philly on Tuesday night.
“I can’t wait,” Simmons said. “It’s gonna be fun. It's just gonna be an opportunity for me, you know, I've never been in this situation. So you know, I got to appreciate it and really take it all in.”
Simmons might not have gone out on a high note when his time ended with the Sixers, but looking back, he’s made a lot of positive memories during the four seasons he spent playing for Philly.
“I had a lot of great moments,” Simmons said. “We shared a lot of moments here. A lot of ups and downs. This is where I became a man, I feel like. I always had a lot of respect for Philly in that way. The fan base, it’s a special fanbase. I got a lot of love for Philly.”
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for All76ers, a Sports Illustrated channel. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.