A powerful figure spoke up in favor of bringing Ben Simmons back today, as 76ers Head Coach Doc Rivers appeared on ESPN’s First Take this morning and advocated for Simmons.
The second-year 76ers head coach spoke with Stephen A. Smith for nearly 10 minutes on the situation, lauding the point guard’s talents and offering up some valuable insight on where he stands on Simmons’ future with the team.
Here’s the entire interview with Simmons that a helpful user uploaded to YouTube. I’ll delve into the interview highlights below.
Interview quotes and highlights:
– Rivers point blank said he wanted Simmons back on the team for the 2021-2022 season. He’s got four years left on his contract, Rivers noted, and his fate is held in the hands of the 76ers.
“I’ll tell you up front we would love to get Ben back. If we can, we’ll try to do that. Ben has a long contract. It’s in our hands and we want him back.”
-Rivers focused a lot on highlighting how important Simmons was to the Sixers overall success last year. He believed the media and fans focused too much on his lack of offense and ignored the other aspects of his game the team depended on night in and night out.
-Rivers fervently denied that his comments after the Sixers game 7 loss to the Hawks had anything to do with Ben’s future with the team or him questioning the 76ers could win a championship with Simmons. He was adamant the media misrepresented his statements on Simmons to further a narrative that there was a divide between player and coach.
“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 with Ben, I was just basically saying I’m not answering that crap, those questions. What disappointed me, and I don’t do this media thing very often, you never see me do this. It was being portrayed that I was out there saying I don’t think we can win with Ben, but 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 nobody heard it and just kept running their narratives. I’ve been in sports a long time, I’m not mispresented very often, but in that case I was. It is what it is. Ben knows, Rich knows and I know.”
-He confirmed he met with Simmons and Simmons told the organization he wants to be traded.
“We had a good conversation. He gave us reasons that we obviously didn’t agree with. In sports, you’ve been around it a lot, there have been so many times that this has happened where it wasn’t reported and the guy has come back.”
-Rivers noted the Sixers hired a shooting coach and a free throw coach for Simmons this offseason. He doesn’t need to be a great free throw shooter to be successful, he said, but he does need to improve.
“It’s about the free throws. He absolutely needs to improve them. We don’t even need him to be at 70% We hired a free throw coach and a shooting coach. We want to get him in the gym, work him out, and get him better. That one thing frees him up.”
-One point I didn’t enjoy was Rivers constant harping of the Sixers being one game away from the Eastern conference championship. You can’t keep bringing that up when the Sixers haven’t gotten out of the second round in the last four years. It’s not a point of pride at this point for anyone in the city that they were “close” to reaching the Eastern conference finals. Enough already.
-I thought it was interesting that Rivers said the team is expecting Simmons to come back and play, but if the relationship cannot be repaired it’s not going to be due to a lack of effort on the Sixers’ part.
“These things can happen. We’re hoping it happens here. Listen, if it doesn’t it’s not going to be from us not trying to get it right, I can tell you that.”
Interesting stuff from Doc Rivers on ESPN’s First Take. We’ll see what happens as all of this unfolds.