Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers wants to change Ben Simmons’ mind.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the all-star goalie told the team he will not show up to training camp next week and have no plans to play for the franchise again.
“Well, hopefully we can change that thinking,” Rivers said on ESPN’s Keyshawn, JWill and Max on Wednesday morning. “It’s part of our job.”
The disconnect between the Sixers and the Simmons seemed to have started in the Eastern Conference semi-final loss to the Hawks last season. In this game, Simmons dunked wide open for a pass – arching a bewildering lack of shots in the latter part of the series.
“The best thing about sport is you know it’s fair, sometimes you fail and then you get back on the horse and try,” Rivers said. “You’d be amazed if I told you how many times in a summer you don’t win, that’s 29 teams, how many times you have to go through something similar. Because losing is hard. People internalize it, and you have to deal with it. So we’ll deal with it. “
After the series, Rivers said he wasn’t sure the Sixers could win a title with Simmons in the lead.
“That’s not what I said, actually,” Rivers added on Wednesday when asked about the comment. “That’s when the stories… and that’s what makes our job hard. I actually said when the guy asked, guys, I’m not responding to that stuff right now. I don’t. not even know how to answer that. So what I was talking about not answering the question. It had nothing to do with Ben. “
Rivers said he called an impromptu press conference the next day to clarify that he wasn’t saying Simmons couldn’t lead a championship team, and Simmons knew what he meant.
“But it’s amazing how it starts and takes on a life of its own,” Rivers said Wednesday.
What Rivers actually said after Game 7 was, “I don’t know that question or the answer to it yet. You know, so I don’t know the answer to that.”
Rivers was asked on Wednesday if Simmons could play for him and win a championship.
“Yeah, all day. All day. He does so many things, man,” Rivers said, going on to explain that scoring isn’t everything.
“The Ben Wallaces of the world. It was great to see him enter the Hall of Fame. And the Dennis Rodmans of the world… help teams win titles and build Hall of Fame careers without being big scorers. “Rivers said. “I think Ben can score a lot more than he has scored, but that’s not what makes him great. What makes him great is all the other things he does.”
Simmons averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists in the regular season. He shot 56% from the field, but only 30% from the 3-point line – trying only 10 all season, an incredible number in today’s game. He has attempted two 3s in 34 career playoff games.
Still, he’s a three-time All-Star and twice made the NBA’s defensive team.
He had just five points in that Game 7 loss to the Hawks, but he added eight rebounds and 13 assists. And there’s one more thing Rivers pointed out: Simmons held star Atlanta goaltender Trae Young to 5 of 23 shots.
Rivers therefore does not want to focus only on the shoot.
“We forget how he gets open shots from the guys, how he puts pressure on the defenses with his athletic speed,” Rivers said. “Yes, there are things he has to work on and we can work on, but we can absolutely win with him.”
While Rivers wants to change the narrative, he hasn’t been having much luck this offseason. He was asked how much he had spoken to Simmons.
“Not a lot, but we’ve had it,” he said. “And I understand his feelings. I understand where he is right now, but we’re going to keep trying to work on it to put him in the right place.”
As for the pitch, Rivers said the 76ers have hired a shooting coach.