Why Danny Green Missed the Mark With His Comments on Sixers Fans
The Philadelphia 76ers, and their fans, are still grappling with the aftermath of the team completing one of the worst collapses in the history of a city’s sports landscape that is littered with… well, collapses and disappointments. After earning the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, the Sixers blew an 18-point second half lead in Game 4 of the Conference Semifinals and followed that up by coughing up a 26-point advantage in Game 5. Their 2-1 series lead became a 3-2 deficit, and instead of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2001, the team was eliminated by the Atlanta Hawks in seven games.
Naturally, these circumstances drew the ire of the notoriously tough Philadelphia crowd, with much of the vitriol falling on Ben Simmons, whose offensive play regressed to the point that head coach Doc Rivers was forced to sit the All-Star in key fourth quarter stretches. This play in Game 7 has become a microcosm of the Ben Simmons offensive experience and its effect on the team.
Last Thursday, Sixers guard Danny Green shared some candid thoughts on the Philadelphia crowd. Specifically, he was asked by Philadelphia sportscaster John Clark if he thought the Philly crowd can “have an effect on someone like Ben.”
“For sure,” Green replied. “It has an effect on everybody, and I think that’s something that needs to change in the city. I love our fans, but when things aren’t going well, they can’t turn on you. They need to be riding with us, regardless of how things are going.”
“We’re the No. 1 team in the East, still playing well, and in some games they’ll boo us – that’s part of the culture here, part of their way of showing they love us – but with a guy like Ben, and other guys, I think they need to stick behind them and stick by them as long as they can, until the horn blows.”
The thing is, Sixers fans have stuck behind this team, through brutal disappointments and a borderline ridiculous rebuilding process. They’ve been there through thousands of horns blowing, waiting and waiting for their patience and loyalty to be rewarded. For Sixers fans younger than 40, they’re still waiting. But still they come, game after game, year after year.
Similarly, the fans have been incredibly patient with Simmons. Before this spring’s postseason regression, Sixers fans have supported, defended and encouraged Simmons at every turn. They’ve done this as Simmons showed flashes of the adjustments and improvements he clearly needs to reach his full potential. They’ve done this as they’ve been teased with offseason workout videos of a sweaty Simmons putting up jump shot after jump shot, all with the promise that this would be the season all that work pays off and bears fruit on the court. But that payoff has yet to come, and during these playoffs the regression was painfully obvious, culminating in a complete unwillingness to shoot no matter how close to the basket he was, and a putrid 34.2% postseason free throw percentage. So, forgive them if they’re a bit frustrated.
The rest of Green’s response was littered with phrases that are problematic: “stand by us like we stand by you” and “be on our side when it’s convenient.”
Here’s the thing, Danny. It hasn’t been “convenient” to be on the Sixers’ side in 20 years.
Let’s just look at the recent history of the team. The fan base watched the organization strip itself to the bare bones, trotting out G League lineups in an effort to maximize the opportunity to hit home runs in the draft. Not only did Sixers fans not complain about this nearly unprecedented commitment to not winning in the short term, but they embraced it, supporting both the team on the court and the philosophy as a whole in hopes they would be rewarded with a championship.
Instead, over the last three seasons, they’ve suffered through Kawhi Leonard’s quadruple-doink game-winner in Game 7 of the conference semis in 2019, an embarrassing four-game sweep at the hands of the hated Boston Celtics in the bubble in 2020, and then this year’s epic collapse.
Here’s the crux of the problem. Green has been in Philadelphia for one year. Sixers fans have been here 20, 30, 40, 50 years. They’ve been waiting for an NBA championship since 1983. They’ve been waiting for an NBA Finals appearance since 2001.
Danny Green was born in 1987.
Ultimately, Green was sticking up for his teammate and trying to extract some positivity out of a postseason run that was an unmitigated disaster for the franchise. That’s fine, even admirable. But he failed to consider the lens in which Philly fans are viewing what they just witnessed and how that fits in the 57 years the team has called Philadelphia home. Green was a great addition to the 76ers this season, and his absence after getting injured in Game 3 against the Hawks certainly played a role in what unfolded in the remainder of that series. But he missed the mark on this one.
Photo Credit: Bill Streicher – USA Today Sports Images