How did Sixers' Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid Handle All-Star Weekend Festivities?
The NBA All-Star Game is so much more than just two teams filled with the best players facing off against each other for a meaningless matchup on a Sunday night. While it is the main attraction, the league has always turned the entire weekend into a series of events.
Of course, it's not all about basketball either. Players who have the privilege of being chosen for All-Star weekend have a busy schedule filled with mini-camps, showcases, and media availability as well.
This year, the Sixers were represented by the same two players as third-year guard Ben Simmons and fourth-year center Joel Embiid were voted in by their fans, the media, and their fellow NBA players around the league.
While the two Sixers have been there before, they still haven't mastered everything. So last week, when Sixers' head coach Brett Brown was asked about what he wanted Simmons and Embiid to gain from the events, he responded as such:
"I've had the privilege of going to two, and you're in the room with 24 of the best players in the world," Brown said last week. "You see the atmosphere, the NBA does a great job of making it an event. With all of the festivities, the exposure is always good for young players to learn how to handle it and see. Most importantly, to look across and see LeBron James and to see veteran players and how they act and prepare."
Like everybody else, Simmons and Embiid were involved in tons of media throughout the week. Ironically enough, the two young stars have been hot topics amongst the national media for their struggles and rumored locker room controversies over the last two or three weeks as the Sixers have struggled on the road.
The media in attendance brought the tough questions, and Embiid and Simmons handled the pressure with class. Not only did the say the right things, but they also showed a different side to their on and off-court friendship as they weren't as guarded around the fans and the cameras.
The hope in Philly is that their weekend's worth of bonding can help the two stars lead their underperforming team to a dominant final stretch when they return to the court on Thursday to face Brooklyn. The Sixers might already be a lock to make the playoffs, but their spot in the bracket needs work. With 27 games left on the schedule, there's plenty of time for Philly to turn things around and start winning on the road.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_