Dan Le Batard did a Sixers segment on a recent show.
It was more or less talking about the playoff failure and ensuing fallout, and there’s a quote going around that’s been cherry-picked and shared online, but here’s a longer version of what he said about Philadelphia sports fans. The conversation stems from the topic of Ben Simmons and the criticism he’s been taking:
Le Batard: “Doc Rivers did him no favors, or the organization no favors, by answering honestly the question of ‘can you win a championship with this point guard?’ He didn’t have to answer that honestly. I don’t see what he gains from answering it honestly, by saying publicly, ‘I don’t know whether we can win with this guy.'”
Stugotz: “Well someone got to Doc because he came out later and said we have a plan for Ben Simmons. He’s trying to boost the value now, and his confidence, in case he comes back as a Sixer next year.”
Le Batard: “I believe that was a hurt and emotional coach, too honest for his own good, who made a mistake in a press conference, because of how broken he was and because of the specifics of all of the pressure of that city on you as a #1 seed, and you just watched one of your most trusted pieces disintegrate in a way that made you yourself doubt, as the leader of the team, whether you can trust him. That’s what happened in that locker room, and that’s what Stephen A Smith is giving voice to, when he says- and he said it with a bit of pride, because he’s a Philadelphia guy, he worked in Philadelphia for a time – that that city will not forgive that. He is right about that. I think it’s an ugly part of that city. Their fandom is cruel. There’s a pride in how mean they can be. They file it under caring, but it can be very cruel.”
Stugotz: “No doubt, but a lot of fan bases would not be okay with that. I mean, he kind of bailed on the team.”
Le Batard: “Understood, but it was a moment of mental and human frailty.”
“There’s a pride in how mean they can be.”
Give me a break. Earlier in this series you had people cheering for Ben Simmons at the free throw line, trying to encourage the guy to snap out of his slump and figure it out offensively. There was a shot of a guy in the stands emulating the free-throw shooting motion in a supportive type of way. Same fans that backed Markelle Fultz even when he was a total disaster on the floor.
It’s not about being ‘mean,’ it’s about calling it how it is. Ben Simmons hasn’t improved his offensive game one bit from his rookie season. We’ve lived three years of Instagram videos, resulting in jack shit on the actual floor, when it matters. Passing the ball to Matisse Thybulle instead of dunking it from one foot away the fourth quarter of a Game 7. Standing in the dunker spot and being ineffective in the half court.
And Philly fans had to listen to Doc Rivers sell them some shit about Simmons’ shortcomings being no big deal, that we should “treasure” the player and that we didn’t know basketball and all of this other stuff that was borderline insulting. People painstakingly tried to be fair about Ben and give him credit for the things he did well while walking the tightrope and trying to stave off incredible partisan bickering that followed the player everywhere.
It’s exhausting, and Philly sports fans have every right to feel the way they do. This was the ultimate choke job and Doc Rivers and Ben Simmons will never live it down.