Sixers' Dwight Howard defends Ben Simmons against criticism

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Howard defends Simmons against criticism, says he believes in him originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Ahead of a must-win Game 6 Friday night in Atlanta, Dwight Howard defended Ben Simmons against criticism the 24-year-old has received following a 4-for-14 performance at the foul line in the Sixers' Game 5 loss.

“Everybody’s talking about Ben," Howard said on Instagram Live. “Leave him alone. Send him some positivity instead of talking about how bad you think he is. Ain’t none of y’all played in the NBA … and y’all have so much to say to somebody who’s been playing their whole life.

“Sit y’all butts down. … Leave people alone. We do this for a living, man. I believe in you, Ben. I don’t care how many free throws you miss, I still believe in you. You’re my doggone brother.” 

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Howard has shared his high opinion of Simmons many times since joining the Sixers. In November, he called him a "young LeBron."

“He has an opportunity to be one of the greatest to ever play the game," Howard said at the time, “and I’m glad to have an opportunity to give him some things that can help him along the way.”

A three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Howard in February labeled Simmons "the best defensive player in the league right now." Simmons ultimately finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting to Jazz center Rudy Gobert. 

The 35-year-old Howard is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the Sixers' season ends, which he hopes won't be Friday.