Joel Embiid praised the Philadelphia 76ers' team spirit following their 117-97 win over the New Orleans Pelicans despite the absence of wantaway star Ben Simmons.
Simmons was ejected from practice prior to the game due to issues with his conduct as the 25-year-old guard seeks a trade, but the 76ers did not miss him en route to a comfortable victory.
Embiid, who had 22 points and 12 rebounds, noted the healthy atmosphere in the rest of the squad following a team dinner ahead of the opening fixture.
“We've been practicing hard,” Embiid said. “It was good to kind of get off to a good start, get a win and kind of forget about the off-the-court stuff.
"[The spirit on the bench] - that’s us. That’s how we’ve been this whole summer. That’s the attitude everybody has had. That’s the definition of us. Being together, having fun together, doing stuff with each other. I think it goes a long way.
"It's good to just go out and kinda not talk about basketball and talk about life. That's also an evolution for me, because usually, when I used to go on the road, I'd just like to stay in my room and be on the phone and play video games."
SIXERS WIN. pic.twitter.com/4MXUMad3og— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) October 21, 2021
Simmons' replacement in the team, Tyrese Maxey, managed 20 points, with seven rebounds and five assists and agreed with his team-mate, explaining that the squad's chemistry is a crucial factor in their success.
“Everybody's capable,” Maxey said. "At the end of the day, basketball's a team effort. You need an entire team to be able to win. I felt like the focus was there from shoot-around, probably even from when we got on the plane yesterday.
“The chemistry is really [good]. Guys like playing with each other, guys like being around each other. Sometimes adversity makes you stronger, makes the bond closer and we got to just keep building.”
Head coach Doc Rivers insisted that Simmons' antics have not disrupted the rest of his players, and praised their collective development as a team.
"[The players] have been normal, the only abnormal part is when they have to talk to the media afterwards and they're asked questions [about Simmons]," Rivers said.
"It's about playing basketball and growing together, and they've done a great job of that."