76ers get used to life at home without disgruntled Simmons

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Florida man who corralled a loose alligator into a recycling bin described his thought process on the hunt for the reptile like this:

“I’m not going to be Ben Simmons. I’m gonna get me this basket,” Eugene Bozzi said in a TV interview.

Would you be surprised to learn the alligator wrangler was a Philadelphia native?

Without playing a game, Simmons is getting dunked on, from wrestlers to weathermen to Shaq, and there’s no respite from the insults, not as long as he refuses to play for the Philadelphia 76ers.

The three-time All-Star guard on Thursday night skipped the Sixers’ preseason home opener — the official status update was “not with team” — and he’s now a pariah in Philly.

Simmons was out of sight, out of mind and out of the team pregame hype video, with no public hint of a resolution to the messy separation any time soon.

The Sixers have largely stopped talking about him, and really, who could add anything of substance that would live up to Joel Embiid’s open rebuke last week that the melodrama was “weird, disappointing, borderline kind of disrespectful to all the guys that are out here fighting for their lives”? The 25-year-old Australian, still with $147 million and four years left on his contract, these days is little more than a public punchline.

The Philadelphia meteorologist nicknamed “Hurricane” opened a recent forecast with the dig, “unlike Ben Simmons, we had to show up today.” Glenn Schwartz added, “we gave him every break, every encouragement.”

Simmons’ postseason play, though, was the fatal flaw that stoked the trade demand once he felt Rivers and his teammates didn’t have his back in the wake of a miserable series against Atlanta. Simmons took the fall — then wanted out.

He hasn’t talked publicly since the summer trade demand, and tea leaf readers are making a mint trying to decipher clues into how the impasse will be resolved.

Simmons was hit with financial penalties with 25% of his salary already withheld and fines accruing for missed practices and games, numbers that could hit seven figures even before the Oct. 20 season opener.

He does have at least one defender: Philly native and comedian Kevin Hart went on the “All The Smoke” podcast and said the city and franchise needed to ease up on Simmons.

“Granted, this a three-shooting time in the NBA. That ain’t Ben. He’s not that guy. He’s not that guy,” Hart said. “Now, because of the media and how they, you know, position things, somehow we forgot about all the good that he did. Wasn’t he an All-Star? Wasn’t he all-defensive team? What are we talking about                                                                 here?”

Simmons might be on the NBA clearance rack, but his No. 25 jerseys hung in the team store for the low, low price of $134.99, and T-shirts, plush creatures and Fatheads (for $19.99).

It took several loops around the concourse about an hour before tipoff to find at least one fan wearing Simmons merch. Gerald McDonald, a New Jersey native who moved this year to Philly, wore a Simmons jersey with No. 25 emblazoned over an image of the Liberty Bell.

McDonald bought it before last season’s playoffs to replace a tattered Iverson jersey.

Much like the 76ers, he has buyer’s remorse.

McDonald laughed as he noted he should have picked Embiid.

“I was like, Simmons ain’t bad, why not?” he said.

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