Sixers coach Rivers on the Ben Simmons saga: ‘We want him back’

Philadelphia: Can the rift between Ben Simmons and the Sixers be repaired? Doc Rivers is not ruling it out.

The Sixers coach said Wednesday in an interview with ESPN that the team “would love to get Ben back … if we can”, despite multiple reports that Simmons no longer wants to be a Sixer and will not report to training camp next week.

“Well, I hope we can change that thought. That’s part of our job.

“There’s been so many times that this has happened that hasn’t been reported, and the guy comes back,” Rivers said. “Listen, we’re gonna go through it. We’re gonna always do what’s best for the team.

“But I can tell you up front, we would love to get Ben back and, if we can, we’re gonna try to do that. Ben has a long contract, so it’s in our hands, and we want him back.”

Rivers acknowledged that a recent conversation between Simmons and the Sixers’ brass occurred, during which Simmons “gave his reasons [for wanting out of Philadelphia], which we obviously didn’t agree with.”

Sixers coach Doc Rivers speaks to Ben Simmons.Credit:Getty Images

Rivers also pushed back on how his post-game comments about Simmons following Philly’s game-seven loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the eastern conference semi-finals were portrayed.

Rivers was asked “Do you think Ben Simmons can be still be a point guard for a championship team like the one you guys want to become?” and Rivers responded, “Yeah, I don’t know the answer to that right now. So, I don’t know the answer to that.”

On Wednesday, Rivers said: “My answer was, ‘I’m not answering any of that stuff right now, guys. I don’t even know how to answer that.’ That had nothing to do about Ben. I was basically saying, ‘I’m not answering that crap, those questions.’

“What disappointed me, and I don’t do this ‘[blame the] media’ thing very often, you never see me do that. It was being portrayed that I was out there saying I don’t think we can win with Ben, and I do. I told Ben that the next day.

“What really disappointed me was, the next day, I went on and said, ‘Guys, you all know exactly what I was talking about,’ and no one heard it. They just kept running their narratives.

“You know, I’ve been in sports a long time, and I’m not misrepresented very often, but in that case I was. But it is what it is. Ben knows, Rich [Paul, Simmons’ agent] knows and I know.”

His relationship with the franchise soured during the 2021 NBA play-offs and Rivers said he had had limited conversations with the Australian since the 76ers’ season ended.

Simmons is a talented playmaker and defender, but his inability – or unwillingness – to take shots proved costly during the series with the Hawks. He also drew criticism for his performance at the foul line. He made just 34.2 per cent of his attempts (25 of 73) in 12 playoff games after shooting 61.3 per cent during the regular season.

Ben Simmons (right) with fellow 76ers star Joel Embiid.Credit:Getty Images

“Not much, but we’ve had some. And I get his feelings. I understand where he’s at right now, but we’re going to keep trying to work on it to get him in the right place.

“The greatest thing in sports is, you know it’s fair, you fail at times and then you get back on the horse and try,” Rivers said.

“You would be amazed if I told you how many times through a summer when you don’t win, which is 29 teams, how often you have to go through something similar to this. Because losing’s hard. People internalise it, and you have to deal with it. So we’re going to deal with this.”

The No.1 overall pick in 2016, Simmons has started all 275 games he has played in four NBA seasons, all with the 76ers. He has four years left on a five-year, $US177.2 million max contract extension he signed in July 2019. His base salary for the 2021-22 season is $US33 million, per Spotrac.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Reuters

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