‘Stinking up the joint’: Simmons slapped
Ben Simmons faces the biggest game of his brief NBA career when the Philadelphia 76ers attempt to avoid being eliminated from the playoffs by the Toronto Raptors.
A bad result will lead to more calls for the 76ers to trade the Australian 22-year-old and for head coach Brett Brown to be axed.
Simmons has been hit with a barrage of criticism from Philadelphia fans, US media and former NBA stars including Charles Barkley after the 76ers lost the past two games against the Raptors to fall just one loss away from the end of their season.
The Raptors lead the series 3-2 with Game 6 in Philadelphia on Friday (10am AEST).
Barkley savaged Simmons and 76ers teammates Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick after Wednesday's 125-89 loss in Game 5, accusing them of "stinking up the joint" and not stepping up for centre Joel Embiid while he struggles with illnesses and knee issues.
"Especially Ben Simmons," Barkley, who began his Hall of Fame career with the 76ers, said on ESPN. "He has to play better, man.
"He has to play a lot better."
Simmons' offence was off and Butler had a message for him directly after the match to be more aggressive.
"Ben, don't pass the ball in transition," Butler said. "Attack every single time. That's how we're going to win this (series)."
Simmons had a horror game in Wednesday's implosion with the Melbourne-born All-Star committing two turnovers in the first 36 seconds. He finished the game with just seven points, seven rebounds and four assists in 25 minutes on the court.
A year ago the 76ers were knocked out of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics with Simmons refusing to attempt field goals outside the paint one of the factors. Simmons, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, still refuses to shoot from distance.
Philly fans and media commentators on radio and TV across the US on Wednesday were calling for Simmons to be traded for an All-Star better suited to playing alongside Embiid.
ESPN NBA analyst Jalen Rose said if the Sixers want to build their team around Embiid, then they must trade Simmons.
"I feel like if you're going to build around Joel Embiid, that means trading Ben Simmons," Rose said. "Those are the two pillars of your team.
"Ben Simmons won't shoot the ball outside of the paint, and he can't shoot free throws. When the playoffs come and the game slows down, you want Joel Embiid in the post - not at the three-point line.
"If Ben Simmons is on the baseline at the dunk spot, there's really no true room to operate and for them to maximise their potential."
Simmons was booed by the Philadelphia crowd in Wells Fargo Centre in the first game of this year's playoffs - a loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
Simmons was defiant, telling reporters the booing fans can "stay on" Brooklyn's side, but it did fire him up and the 76ers won the next four games to vanquish the Nets and face the Raptors.
There is speculation Simmons, who is eligible for a five-year, $A220 million contract extension in July, could be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers where LeBron James is desperate for All-Star help.
Simmons, who has been mentored by James and signed with James' agency, Klutch Sports, appears to be a perfect fit.
LA is also where Simmons' girlfriend, model and reality TV star Kendall Jenner, lives.