A separation between Ben Simmons and the 76ers has been in the making for some time now. But Doc Rivers isn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.
The head coach took to ESPN’s “Keyshawn, JWill and Max” on Wednesday morning to address reports the 25-year-old guard is “done” with the 76ers and will not participate in training camp, saying he hopes that decision isn’t final.
“Well, I hope we can change that thought,” Rivers told ESPN. “That’s our job.”
Simmons and the team have been at odds since Philly was eliminated from last year’s playoffs, and the Australian was heavily criticized for not rising to the occasion, especially in Game 7 against the Atlanta Hawks.
Rivers himself was credited back then with saying he didn’t think the Sixers could win a championship with Simmons — comments that Rivers vehemently denied on Wednesday’s broadcast.
“That’s not what I said, actually,” the veteran coach said. “This is what makes our jobs hard. I actually said when the guy asked, ‘Guys, I’m not answering that stuff right now. I don’t even know how to answer that.’ So what I was talking about was not answering the question. It had nothing to do with Ben.”
It’s hard to determine whether Rivers’ recent comments will carry any weight, given how tumultuous the offseason has been. While Simmons’ lack of shooting has long been a topic of conversation, the three-time All-Star’s lack of production in last season’s playoffs spurred negative comments from teammates and sent the trade rumor mill into overdrive.
From the looks of things, Rivers is doing a last-minute scramble to change that narrative.
“We forget how he gets guys open shots, how he puts pressure on defenses with his athletic speed,” Rivers said. “Yeah, there’s things he needs to work on and we can work on, but we can absolutely win with him.”