Sixers’ Departing Veterans Have Nothing but Praise for Simmons, Embiid
Losing isn't easy in the NBA - especially when a team loses a Game 7 on the road in dramatic fashion. The Philadelphia 76ers once again can't get past their second-round opponent, but at least this time around they put up much more of a fight. The Sixers might've given it all they got - but in the end, their all wasn't enough. Now, the Sixers are back in Philly clearing their belongings out of their lockers and meeting with the media to officially wrap up the 2018-2019 NBA season, which ended on Sunday.
Going into this offseason is going to be hard for the Sixers. Not only because this tough series loss could take some time to get over - but because the 76ers are going to look a lot different next season. Once again, there will be key departures. Some guys may be back, but the Sixers front office cannot make it happen for everybody.
We know it, and they sure do too. Regardless of what the future holds for some of the Sixers' leaving veterans, a few of them refuse to leave without assuring Philadelphia that the future is in good hands with their young stars whether people want to believe it or not. Throughout the entire playoff process, the Sixers' key veteran Jimmy Butler has stood beside Joel Embiid.
Despite Embiid's handful of hiccups in the postseason, Butler wouldn't indicate he's frustrated with his lack of availability to be one-hundred percent at all times. Not only did Butler have patience and trust in Embiid, but he sees a historical combination in both, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid in the future, which is a promising quote coming from a guy who didn't seem to get along with the younger core on his former team.
"They are going to go down in history, they are going to do some special things in this league," Butler told the media following the Game 7 stunner. Butler may be back, but in case he isn't, he wanted to let everybody know his thoughts on the Sixers' young stars. He wouldn't be the only one though. Two-year Sixers' guard, JJ Redick has also been a critical piece to their back-to-back playoff runs. Before there was a Butler, there was strictly a Redick as the veteran leader. He knows just as well as anybody how good Embiid and Simmons can be after some more growth and development.
"As Jimmy said, those guys have the chance to be some of the All-Time greats in the NBA," Redick mentioned during what could potentially be his final exit interview with the 76ers. Although Redick would enjoy being back in Philly for a third year, there's a good chance the Sixers could be moving on. Similar to Redick, Sixers' veteran center Amir Johnson is more likely to be walking than returning.
Although Johnson didn't play much during the 2018-19 season, he's been around long enough to know who can lead a team and ball, and who cannot. During Johnson's 14-year stint in the NBA, he's spent his last two years suiting up for the Sixers. And during that time, Johnson has concluded that Embiid and Simmons have what it takes to lead this franchise to greater things. It all starts with getting out of the second round of the playoffs, but Johnson doesn't see that as an issue in the future.
"I definitely believe those two will get a championship if they stick together." Although Simmons and Embiid have continuously assured Philly they plan to stick around for a long time; there is always going to be some sense of doubt considering Simmons' relationships out West. However, the 22-year-old All-Star has made sure to keep his thoughts out in the open regarding where he desires to play for the remainder of his career.
Despite the late-season hiccups over the last two years, the Sixers are clearly in a better place than they were over the last couple of seasons. This offseason will be critical, as they are set to lose a handful of important players. But the Sixers will at least have their two young leading All-Stars in Embiid and Simmons sticking around. Hopefully, in 2020 those two take another big leap forward in their progression not only as players, but as leaders as well. The city is counting on them.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for South Jersey's 97.3 ESPN. You can follow Justin on Twitter: @JGrasso_