LOS ANGELES – This has become as common as hearing the “Trust the Process” chant.
Since 2014, the 76ers have had at least one participant in the annual Rising Stars Challenge that kicks off the NBA All-Star Weekend. And for the second time in four seasons, they have three players selected to participate in the exhibition.
Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric are among the headliners for Friday’s game that pits 10 first-and second-year NBA players from the United States against 10 first- and second-year international players at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Embiid (Cameroon), Simmons (Australia) and Saric (Croatia) will represent the world team. It was believed that Embiid, who also was selected for the NBA All-Star Game and Skills Challenge, might watch the Rising Stars game from the Staples Center bench for the second straight season. However, as of Thursday afternoon, he was still scheduled to participate in the game.
The center missed the Sixers’ victory Wednesday night over the Miami Heat because of a nagging sore right ankle. The Sixers are reevaluating what he’ll participate in this weekend. The Skills Challenge will be on Saturday night, and the All-Star Game on Sunday night.
But Simmons and Saric are both scheduled to suit up Friday night.
Simmons was noncommittal when asked if he’ll try to prove in this game that he deserves to be an all-star. The rookie is averaging 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, a league fourth-best 7.3 assists, and seventh-best 1.89 steals.
His 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists Wednesday marked his sixth triple-double of the season.
“It depends on how the game is played,” Simmons said of trying to prove a point. “But definitely I think whenever I’m on the court, I want to win and play well. That’s the end result.”
However, he didn’t hide his disappointment over being passed over three times as an all-star injury replacement. The last two vacancies went to Miami point guard Goran Dragic and Charlotte point guard Kemba Walker.
“I don’t really know what an all-star is anymore,” Simmons said last week. “I mean if it was about win-lose, you picked Dragic [whose team was ahead of the Sixers at the time] obviously and you pick Kemba, whose team is seven wins under us.
“It is what it is, but my stats don’t lie.”
But the 6-foot-10, 240-pound point guard said he’s still blessed to have been selected to play in the Rising Stars matchup.
“It’s not what I wanted,” Simmons said. “I’m happy I’m playing, and I’m excited.”
Saric is also excited. The second-year player also participated in the game last season. To him, this is for bragging rights.
“Since I played in Hoop Summit World against USA [a high school showcase], you want to beat them,” Saric said. “But first, we are there for the fans. We are there to enjoy a little bit. Of course, all players want to win that game. I really want to win that game, too.”
Saric also looks forward to reconnecting with and playing alongside international players against whom he competed in Europe.
“That’s a pretty nice thing,” he said.