Sports

The Delightfully Unnecessary Feud the NBA Playoffs Desperately Didn’t Need

Ben Simmons vs. Jared Dudley: an appreciation.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 18: Jared Dudley #6 of the Brooklyn Nets reacts after a play in the third quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers during game three of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center on April 18, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Jared Dudley and Ben Simmons in the midst of some storied beef in Brooklyn on April 18.
Elsa/Getty Images

Were it not for the playoffs, Ben Simmons and Jared Dudley would exist as two distant planets in the vast expanses of the NBA universe. Simmons is an All-Star and one of the league’s brightest young talents. Dudley is a 33-year-old journeyman who was traded to the Brooklyn Nets last summer for Darrell Arthur. The postseason provides its own gravity, though, and these two seemingly unrelated entities have collided during the Philadelphia 76ers’ first-round matchup with the Brooklyn Nets. Somehow, the two are in the midst of an honest-to-goodness beef. A fabled beef, even.

How did we get here? Who’s winning this bizarre (and fabled) showdown?

The inciting incident.

After Philadelphia evened up the series in Game 2, Dudley—who sat out that contest with a calf injury—talked to reporters about the team’s strategy for slowing Simmons down. “Ben Simmons is a great player in transition,” he said. “And once you get him into half court, he’s average.”

Simmons’ rejoinder.

When asked about the evaluation, Simmons scoffed. “That’s coming from Jared Dudley,” he said. “Come on.”

Simmons may have been dismissive of Dudley to reporters, but he was pointedly aggressive in Game 3, putting up 31 points and 9 assists in the Sixers’ win. Dudley, meanwhile, scored 0 points in 17 minutes, and Simmons looked particularly pleased after Dudley airballed a shot from behind the arc.

When asked about the beef after the game, Simmons gave his answer from the passing lane of the high road. “I don’t really have energy for it,” he said. “It’s done.”

Dudley’s response.

“Saturday’s Game 4 was a quiet affair, and both parties respectfully kept to themselves.” So begins the latest entry in my wildly unpopular basketball fan fiction series, NBA Players Getting Along. In reality, Dudley was a pest all afternoon, and he reacted to a made 3-pointer with the same celebration Simmons had used for Dudley’s Game 3 airball.

Dudley was probably still feeling the adrenaline rush of that made field goal when he got in the face of Sixers center Joel Embiid in the third quarter. He and Simmons tumbled into the crowd during the ensuing tussle, and the officials ejected Dudley and the Sixers’ Jimmy Butler, the latter of whom helped escalate the argument from a skirmish to a full-blown scuttlebutt. This left Simmons to continue the game without his foil, and he finished with 15 points, 8 assists, and 8 rebounds in a 112-108 win for Philadelphia.

Who’s winning the feud?

Simmons provided two key plays for the Sixers down the stretch. First, he found an open J.J. Redick for a go-ahead jumper. (Note: this kind of occurred in a half-court setting.)

Then, after the teams traded 3-pointers, Simmons stole the ball from Jarrett Allen and secured the win for Philly. Despite these late-game heroics, it’s obvious that the winner of the Simmons-Dudley showdown is Jared Dudley.

Dudley averaged 4.9 points per game during the regular season. He is averaging 3 points in the postseason. The fact that he’s been able to generate a feud out of thin air despite those meager stats is a truly remarkable accomplishment. The Sixers and Ben Simmons may be up 3 games to 1, but Dudley has already managed the upset of the postseason.