Game of Phones: 76ers get blown call on bench in blowout
PHILADELPHIA — How’s this for a blown call: Amir Johnson was busted showing Philadelphia 76ers All-Star teammate Joel Embiid his cellphone on the bench late in a Game 1 playoff loss.
Johnson was caught by TV cameras sitting on the bench and scrolling through his phonelate in the fourth quarter and the Sixers losing by double digits. Johnson showed Embiid whatever message was on the phone and then slid the device into his warmup pants pocket.
“I just looked down because he said his daughter was extremely sick and he was checking on her,” Embiid said.
The Sixers made the easy call and fined Johnson an unspecified amount for conduct detrimental to the team.
“It’s not something that we are about,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.
Johnson, who averaged 3.9 points in 51 games, was inactive and apologized for his mistake.
“I take full responsibility and will accept the consequences of my actions,” he said. “I also apologize to my teammates, the 76ers organization and the fans for the distraction this has caused.”
Embiid scored 22 points and had 15 rebounds and was a late addition to starting lineup because of tendinitis in his left knee that cost him most of the final month of the season.
The Nets beat the Sixers 111-102 in Game 1 in a game that was a disaster for the organization before the opening tip.
Sixers owner Josh Harris was very noncommittal on Brown’s return for a seventh season on the bench if the team did not make a deep run in the playoffs. Harris said Brown was a “great coach” but fell well short of giving him a vote of confidence.
“We think he’s the right leader to take us where we need to go in the playoffs,” Harris said. “I’m focused on the Brooklyn Nets.”
But wait, there were more disasters.
The Sixers trailed by 17, missed 22 of 25 3-pointers and played more like the castoffs of the early Process days under Brown than a team expected to contend for an Eastern Conference championship. Ben Simmons only took nine shots and scored nine points. JJ Redick and Tobias Harris continued the starters’ malaise with only a combined four baskets and nine points.
Simmons also blasted the 20,437 Sixers fans for booing the team for most of the game.
“If you’re going to boo, then stay on that side,” he said.
Embiid said the voracious booing that was largely absent during the dark days of the Sixers 10-win season was tough to hear.
“I love the fans. I’ve never said anything about them. They show us a lot of love,” Embiid said. “I understand why they’re booing. But the fact that it’s after every single miss when shots are not going to fall (every time). I’m fine. I’ll play through anything.”
So to recap, the Sixers lost home-court advantage, got caught using a cellphone on the bench, admonished fans for booing and refused to give the head coach a vote of confidence.
And that’s a winner in Philly playoff Bingo.