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February 07, 2018

Joel Embiid says it's 'bulls**t' Ben Simmons hasn't been named All-Star yet

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020718-BenSimmonsJoelEmbiid-USAToday Bill Streicher/USA Today

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and guard Ben Simmons and forward Dario Saric celebrate in front of Washington Wizards forward Tomas Satoransky after a score during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center.

With just a couple weeks remaining between now and All-Star weekend, participants in the NBA's midseason showcase are dropping like flies. The latest player to fall victim to the injury bug is Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis, who fell awkwardly following a dunk attempt on Tuesday night and was shown to have a torn ACL in an MRI taken later that night.

As a man who has been through plenty of injuries and health woes himself, Embiid was sympathetic to what Porzingis has ahead of him in the months to come. Sharing that he knows not just Porzingis but several members of his family, Embiid sent well wishes out to his peer and insisted this could actually help him improve as a player.

"I think it's not all the way bad for him, he's going to focus on some stuff — because when I was hurt I focused on some stuff that I wasn't good at, [like] shooting and working on my body," said Embiid. "I feel like his body is going to really develop nice. I wish him good luck."

Once he got his words of encouragement out of the way, Embiid set his sights on a very different target. Asked by a reporter who he thought should replace Porzingis in the All-Star Game, Embiid did not hold back.

My teammate, of course. I hope they don't do the same bulls**t, the same mistake they've been doing before with the last two guys who got injured. I think he deserves it, he has been playing well the whole season, and he has been a beast lately. I think he deserves that spot. There's a lot of great players in this league, but I feel like he deserves it. And it would be great for me to have another teammate. They told me I'm going to have to dance in front of everybody, so it would be good to have another teammate that's next to me dancing with me so I don't get scared.

Though the last part was very much tongue in cheek — Embiid would not reveal who exactly is telling him he needs to dance at All-Star — the case for his teammate is for real. In Tuesday night's win over the Washington Wizards, Simmons had another one of his typically excellent, all-around performances that have typified his season. The rookie put up 15 points, six rebounds, eight assists, three steals and packaged that all together with a number of highlight plays, leaving Wizards defenders looking helpless at times.

He is the exact sort of player you would want in an All-Star Game: fun to watch play, capable of pulling off great dunks and highlight-reel passes, and a young star the league can begin to promote to its fans around the world. It's unfortunate that he hasn't gotten in already, and it would be a major bummer if he's still on the outside looking in after this injury replacement.

Some fans almost seem to prefer he doesn't make it in order to add fuel to his fire, but I can't agree with that line of thinking. Athlete or not, professionals deserve to be rewarded when they perform at a level that places them near the top of their peer group, and Simmons has no doubt done that. He was a much more deserving candidate than Goran Dragic, the last guy to get the injury replacement, and has outperformed him on basically every level except his team's win total this year.

Weirdly enough, the guy who most deserved a spot as a replacement outside of Simmons when the process began is still left standing. Kemba Walker has been superior individually than the other replacement players, but he appears to have been a victim of the same phenomenon as Simmons so far, kept out because of a comparative lack of team success to a few peers.

Frankly, when the win totals are so close and the production gap is so large, Simmons should be getting more love. We'll see if he gets the All-Star nod, but he certainly has the respect of at least one peer.

Oh, by the way, Markelle Fultz spoke last night

Ostensibly healthy since early December, Markelle Fultz has been shielded from local reporters under the claim that he has not been a full participant in Sixers practices yet. That apparently didn't stop him from doing an interview with former player Caron Butler on national television to the shock of many people who have been tracking the Fultz story over the course of this season.

It was not a long interview, but you can watch that entire clip courtesy of TNT below:

If you're wondering why the Sixers were willing to let Fultz talk with Butler about what he has gone through, look no further than his representation: Fultz and Butler share the same agency. Rather than subjecting him to questions from local reporters who have been on the ground for this story all year, they handed him off to someone who we can say is not necessarily on the level.

Faced with this development, the assembled reporters did our best to press Brett Brown on what exactly he has been held out of that we haven't been able to speak to him, and Brown offered a pretty sheepish series of answers.

"When I feel like there's some conditioning stuff I take him out of it, but it's not much," said Brown. Pressed on why he would take him out of a conditioning session, Brown offered this: "Because I feel like he looks like he hasn't played basketball in a while, so I take him out of it."

The whole thing stinks to high heaven from an outside perspective. I don't pin this on Brown, who simply has to be the messenger for the strange and inexplicable handling of the situation the team has gone with. Local reporters have been trying to get answers from and about Fultz for months, and have been beaten back under the guise of not being a full participant. And now that he made a national media appearance, we are told the drills he's held back from are conditioning drills, all while his coach says he needs to play more basketball and get in better shape?

You don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out something is up here. Stay tuned.