Philadelphia sports fans have never been known for their subtlety. As the Ben Simmons saga drags on, the 76ers were quietly the No. 1 ranked offense in the league entering play on Monday, and the faithful still feel like championship contention is one big trade away.
On Monday, with the Blazers in town for the start of a short two-game road trip, the Sixers crowd let it be known that Damian Lillard is the player they want, breaking into a “We Want Lillard” chant while the Portland star shot a pair of free throws early in the first quarter.
Lillard has been the apple of Sixers GM Daryl Morey’s eye since the start of this Simmons stalemate. Lillard appeared on the verge of requesting a trade from Portland over the summer, and though he has since reaffirmed his allegiance to the Trail Blazers, we all know that can change in an NBA minute. When and if it does, Morey wants to be ready to send Simmons to the Northwest if he can get Portland to play ball.
Morey has already reportedly offered Simmons to the Blazers for CJ McCollum and multiple first-round picks and swaps, but the Blazers said no. To me, this is still the deal that makes the most sense for both sides, and if Morey eventually relents on his demand for such a rich draft package in addition to McCollum, it still might be the one that gets done. Lillard feels like a Hail Mary.
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Interestingly enough, Sixers coach Doc Rivers said before the Blazers game that Monday was the most he had seen Simmons in the gym working on his shot since he returned to Philadelphia following his preseason holdout. Simmons, of course, is yet to suit up for the Sixers, and it remains to be seen if he ever will again. Simmons has said he’s not mentally ready to play.
Sixers fans seemed to have lost their patience for Simmons. They want Lillard. They likely won’t get him. But they’re going to have to get some kind of Simmons return that keeps them on at least the fringes of championship contention so as to not waste any more of Joel Embiid’s prime.