Dwight Howard is calling for everyone to STOP HATING on his teammate, Ben Simmons -- with the 76ers star saying the negative criticism has gotten completely out of hand.
24-year-old Simmons has been under fire for playing poorly in the NBA playoffs -- particularly in Game 7 of the 76ers vs. Hawks series.
Simmons only scored 5 points in that game -- including 1 point in a hotly contested 4th quarter. Afterward, NBA analyst Shaquille O'Neal says he was so frustrated watching Simmons, he would have KO'd the guy in the locker room if they were teammates.
But, Howard says tough talk and violent threats are NOT the answer ... explaining Ben needs love and support instead.
"I don't think it's right that everybody just sending this man bad messages and all this negativity," Howard said Monday on IG Live ... "I think it sucks."
"We supposed to be the City of Brotherly Love and the best thing we can do is just send some positivity!!!"
Howard added, "This man is 24 years old! He's 24 years old. He's still learning who he is as a person and a player."
"No matter what! Ben, I got your back, man! You're my brother and I love you."
"He might have messed up, didn't take no shots, didn't do whatever -- he's gonna come back better next year. So for real, I think we just gotta send that man some love."