Shaquille O'Neal Says He Would Have Knocked Ben Simmons Out Had They Played Together

Shaquille O'Neal delivered a scathing assessment of Ben Simmons, suggesting he would "knock out" the Philadelphia 76ers guard had the two shared the same locker room.

Simmons took the brunt of the blame for his team's elimination from the playoffs after another dismal performance in the Sixers' 103-96 home loss in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal against the Atlanta Hawks.

The three-time All-Star finished with five points, 13 assists and eight rebounds on Sunday night, shooting just four times from the field and twice from the free-throw line.

"I ain't shoot well from the line this series," Simmons told ESPN after the game. "Offensively, I wasn't there. I didn't do enough for my teammates. [...] There's a lot of things that I need to work on."

Simmons' admission didn't impress O'Neal.

"I like what he said but it don't take seven games for you to realize you're not playing right," the four-time NBA champion and NBA on TNT analyst told his colleagues in the studio after the game.

"Get right. Be aggressive. That's all I want. Just be aggressive. I don't want to hear all that [excuses]. Stop that, cut it out. [...] If he was in my locker room, I would have knocked his a** out."

Shaq on Ben Simmons' postgame comments: "if he was in my locker room i would have knocked his ass out." pic.twitter.com/YmzfU4zHs8

— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) June 21, 2021

In the seven games against the Hawks, Simmons shot 33 percent from the free-throw line, bringing his overall average for the 2021 playoffs down to 34.2 percent. According to data from ESPN Stats and Information, that was the lowest percentage in NBA history for a player with at least 70 free throw attempts in the postseason.

Simmons' struggles were the ignominious ending of a series that will go down in Philadelphia's lore as a litany of blown chances. The Sixers, the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, took a 2-1 lead in the series, before squandering 18-point and 26-point advantages in Game 4 and Game 5 respectively.

O'Neal wasn't alone in criticizing Simmons' abject display, with Twitter predictably merciless after the Sixers' latest capitulation.

the only shots Ben Simmons will be taking is at Señor Frogs in Cancun.

— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) June 21, 2021

A Wikipedia user edited the Shanghai Sharks roster to include Simmons, while others suggested Sixers center Joel Embiid had had enough of his teammate.

WHO PUT BEN SIMMONS ON THE SHANGHAI SHARKS ROSTER 😭 please I cannot pic.twitter.com/Jy4u07m9vH

— Hayley McGoldrick (@GoldieOnSports) June 21, 2021

Ben Simmons: keep your head up bro we’ll be back next season
Joel Embiid: pic.twitter.com/WT7UIdNyLt

— zay (@hruyaz) June 21, 2021

joel embiid carrying ben simmons out of philadelphia pic.twitter.com/0qGcjdAyWp

— buckets (@buckets) June 21, 2021

Embiid did appear to be frustrated by his teammate's struggles. While he did not directly name Simmons, Embiid singled out a play as the sliding-doors moment of Game 7.

With Philadelphia trailing by two and 3:29 left on the clock in the fourth quarter, Simmons posted up against Danilo Gallinari, before spinning away from the Hawks veteran. However, instead of driving to the basket, he passed the ball to Matisse Thybulle, who was subsequently fouled.

Thybulle converted one of two free throws, before Atlanta scored five unanswered points to extend their lead to six points.

Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers
Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers bumps into fans during the fourth quarter during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks at Wells Fargo Center on June 20 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Sixers were eliminated after losing 103-96. Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

"Man, I will be honest," Embiid, who finished with 31 points and 11 rebounds, told The Athletic.

"I thought the turning point was, you know, when we, I don't know how to say it, but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw and we missed the other and they came down and scored."

Simmons' five points on Sunday night was his second-lowest offensive contribution in the series against the Hawks following the four points he scored in Game 2. His 11.9 points per game over his 12 NBA playoff games this year is the lowest of his postseason career, down from 16.3 points per game in 2018 and 13.9 points per game the following year.

Simmons averaged just 9.9 points in the series against the Hawks and was kept to under 10 points in four of the seven games. Asked whether he still considered the 24-year-old to be good enough to be the starting point guard of a championship-winning team, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers replied: "I don't know the answer to that right now."

The Hawks, meanwhile, advanced to their second Conference Final in 50 years where they will face the Milwaukee Bucks. Atlanta became only the third team since the current playoff format was introduced in 1984 to make the conference finals, despite having a losing record at the All-Star break—the Hawks were 16-20 at the time.