We kind of poo-poo’d the “accountability” topic on this website after Josh Richardson brought it up a few times this past season.

It’s not that the concept is unimportant, it’s just a bit overrated, because motivation comes from within. Athletes either have it or they don’t. If you need to be held “accountable” externally, by a coach or by teammates, then do you really have that innate competitor in you?

Probably not.

Ben Simmons was injured in the Orlando bubble and did not play in the Boston playoff series. He’s now fully healthy and was asked about the accountability topic ahead of the start of a new season with a new head coach. He agrees with Richardson’s assertion that something was lacking in this department:

“I think we didn’t know when we were going to get a bucket, or who was going to get us a bucket. From that, to knowing what (sets) we needed to be in at all times, people being held accountable for certain things, whether it’s a minor thing, it all plays a part. He (Josh Richardson) definitely was right. We weren’t in a position to go into the bubble and win. I think our mindset was off. Accountability is a huge part of winning. He’s definitely right. Bringing Doc and all of these guys in, Doc’s team, with all of these coaches, the maturity has definitely risen. It’s been great to see that and see guys be accountable for certain things, and come here ready with a different mindset.”

The question was asked by the AP’s Dan Gelston, who appropriately followed up by asking why the mindset was “off” going into the bubble.

Said Simmons in response:

“I mean, you can’t just come into a situation like the bubble if you aren’t ready and don’t have that chemistry and accountability already. Doc and I have spoken about it already; you can tell the teams that were doing well in the bubble were tightknit and held accountable for certain things going on. You can sort of see it with the Clippers now, things that are coming out (publicly). Same with us. Guys who weren’t held accountable, myself included. A team that did win was the Lakers, the Heat were playing well, they’re a tightknit group. The Celtics were playing well. It shows, especially in the bubble.”

At this point, Gelston followed up again, noting that Doc Rivers was coaching the Clippers squad that blew a 3-1 lead and then had some stuff come out in the media. Paul George criticized Rivers for a lack of adjustments and individual usage that didn’t work.

That resulted in awkward moment about whether or not a reporter should get three straight questions, but ended with this answer from Ben:

“It comes down to players. There’s only so much that can happen with players and coaches and that’s on the players to make sure they’re accountable, and if they’re not gonna listen and do certain things, they’re not gonna win. But I think it’s a great opportunity for us, as younger guys, to have somebody like Doc come in. We gotta get it done.” 

All interesting stuff. Good series of questions there.

There are legitimate concerns about Doc Rivers’ contemporary coaching and whether or not he can motivate guys and pull the very best out of them in 2020. There are also concerns about Simmons’ lack of shooting and whether or not he can take the next career step. Both guys are going to have to be better than they were in 2020 to take this thing to the next level in 2021.

It’s a matter of… accountability!