It’s been a rough 48-hour news cycle for the Philadelphia 76ers. First, they looked surprisingly sluggish while dropping Game 1 of their first round matchup with the Brooklyn Nets at home on Saturday. Then, ESPN cameras caught Amir Johnson showing Joel Embiid something on his cellphone on the bench in the middle of the game while the 76ers were down double-digits. And to cap it off, Ben Simmons had some terse words in postgame for the Philly fans that booed him while he was the free throw line.
But CellphoneGate has been the story that won’t die, so much so that Amir Johnson requested to address the entire team about the incident when the 76ers regrouped for practice on Sunday.
“I really want to sweep it under the rug, and that’s that,” Johnson told ESPN. “I apologized to my teammates and the organization, and I hate that there was so much attention on the cellphone. We’re focused on Game 2. Like I said, this situation, you just kind of want to move it to the side. There’s so many media outlets and situations about that cellphone, and I hate that it ever happened.”
There remains plenty of confusion on what, exactly, Johnson was showing Embiid on his phone. Johnson and Embiid have both said Johnson was checking in on his sick daughter, but cameras also caught the two men laughing as they looked at the phone. Whatever was on it, head coach Brett Brown remains irked by the fact there was a cell phone on the bench at all.
“We all understand there is zero place for that in our league or our organization,” Brown said. “It’s not the look, it’s not the professionalism that we or he represents. Amir is a good person. People that know Amir know this. And so a mistake was made. We owned it, he owned it, we made a statement, and we move on. And I really mean that. We move on.”
The 76ers will try to even their series with the Nets on Monday night, and put some of this drama behind them.