CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On this night, the benefits of “The Process” were on center stage.
The 76ers endured a multi-season tank in order to be in position to draft elite players who would develop into NBA All-Stars. The team’s “I told you so” moment came Sunday night, when Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons participated in the 68th All-Star Game here at the Spectrum Center.
Making his second consecutive All-Star start, Embiid had 10 points, a game-high 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and a block for Team Giannis in a 178-164 loss to Team LeBron. The teams were named for conference top vote-getters Giannis Antetokoumpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James.
“It was cool,” Embiid said of playing in the game. “I was going through the motion. … Obviously, it was a blessing to come back after last year, and I can’t wait to come back every year.”
Simmons had 10 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and a steal for Team LeBron.
Antetokounmpo finished with a game-high 38 points and game MVP Kevin Durant paced Team LeBron with 31.
Embiid missed his first shot attempt, an 18-footer, 1 minute, 10 seconds into the game. He did score on his next two attempts — a dunk and a layup — before being subbed with 6:47 left in the quarter.
Simmons, who came in off the bench, contributed seconds after entering the game to start the second quarter. He grabbed an offensive rebound 18 seconds into the quarter and assisted on James Harden’s three-pointer. He grabbed a defensive rebound at the 11:13 mark before scoring on a dunk two seconds later.
His next two baskets came on an alley-oop dunk and an 8-foot hook shot. Simmons had six points, four rebounds and two assists before going to the bench with 6:09 left in half.
“I had a great time,” Simmons said. “It was what I expected, so I think it was just fun to be other there. It was something new and something I hadn’t done before.”
Embiid, the third pick of the 2014 draft, and Simmons, the 2016 top overall pick, are the first Sixers teammates named to the same All-Star Game since Allen Iverson and Dikembe Mutombo in 2002.
Antetokounmpo selected both players for Team Giannis, but he traded Simmons to Team LeBron in a move that enabled Simmons to play with James, his close friend and mentor.
While Simmons chummed it up with James, Embiid’s interaction with Team Giannis teammate Russell Westbrook was a hot topic.
Team Giannis acquired Westbrook in the trade for Simmons with Antetokounmpo wanting the pair on the same team as a way to help repair their relationship.
The disdain that Embiid and the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard have for each other is real and fun to watch.
But the duo wasn’t on the floor at the same time in the first half.
This was Simmons’ second event at the NBA All-Star Weekend. The first-time All-Star also competed for the World team in Friday’s Rising Stars game. The Australian finished with 28 points on 14-for-17 shooting, adding five rebounds, six assists, three steals, and four turnovers in 20 minutes, 34 seconds as the World team suffered a 161-144 loss to the U.S. team.
Playing in the game for the second time didn’t come close to playing in the All-Star Game.
On Saturday, Simmons talked about what the moment meant to his father, Dave Simmons, a New York native, who played professionally in Australia.
“He’s really happy,” Ben Simmons said. “I put in a lot of work, spent a lot of time in the gym to get better. So I know he’s happy.”
This game had a Philly presence.
Meek Mill was a crowd pleaser during the game’s player introductions, which also served as a concert for the Philly rapper. Embiid wore a pair of customized Under Armor sneakers that honors Philadelphia. David E. Zambrano, who customized the footwear, went to a Philadelphia Boys & Girls Club location and asked children what Embiid means to Philly. Their answers were put on the sneakers. That’s why Declaration of Independence, the American flag, the Love sign, the word “Strong” and “great future” highlighted the design of the shoes.
“I love them,” said Embiid, who received a lot of compliments for his sneakers.
His favorite part was the kids name on the back on the sneakers.