Doc Rivers Offers Nets Advice for Dealing with Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons, Brooklyn Nets

Getty Ben Simmons #10 of the Brooklyn Nets.

For as much negative talk as has surrounded him in the last two years, it can be easy to overlook that enigmatic Brooklyn Nets star Ben Simmons is now the most accomplished player on the roster.

And his old head coach believes Simmons deserves an opportunity to showcase that.

“I believe he can get back to where he was with us,’’ said Doc Rivers, Simmons’ former head coach with the Philadelphia 76ers, per Dan Martin of the New York Post. “Especially now I think because he’ll have the ball in his hands more…It’s just going to take time now. It’s been a year and a half. I don’t think it will be overnight, but he’s working and that’s all you can do.”

Newly-acquired “twins” Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson come with all of the fanfare. The 26-year-olds are both solid two-way threats. Recently-acquired players Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith offer versatility and grit, the latter on both ends of the floor.

But they have just one All-Defensive selection between them while Simmons has two all on his own.

Simmons and Rivers exchanged words after a foul call during the Nets’ 101-98 loss to the Sixers on February 11.

Simmons only saw 16 minutes against Philly as Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn decided to have him come off the bench with the new-look team. He was met with a chorus of boos from the crowd at Barclays arena, though there was a heavy Sixers presence among them. He finished with four points, three assists, three rebounds, one block, and one steal.

The 6-foot-10 Simmons has averaged 5.6 points, 7.1 assists, and 5.6 boards making 10 out of a possible 16 appearances since Durant went down with his MCL injury and the season flipped on its ear. In three games since Irving’s trade demand, he’s posted a 4.7/5.0/4.3 stat line.

Ben Simmons Voices Frustration Over 4Q Minutes

“It’s a little frustrating trying to find some rhythm and consistency,” Simmons said after his minutes fell for the second game in a row, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post adding, “that’s what it is at this point right now. Guys have been in and out due to injuries, trades, so there’s been a lot of different things that play factors into it.”

Simmons has previously been challenged by Vaughn to increase his intensity on both ends of the floor.

To his credit, Simmons has said he welcomes criticism when (he feels) it is warranted. Whether or not he feels Vaughn’s latest approach is justified remains unclear but Simmons has said that he is not fine not playing late when they are losing.

Brooklyn has lost four of its last six contests with Simmons missing the first three.

The Nets have gone 1-2 with Simmons and without in that six-game span so there is not much to draw from such a short sample size.

What’s Next for Nets, Simmons?

It would seem fair to say that he has not quite lived up to his five-year, $177 million contract with Brooklyn despite some promising stretches. But, even though Rivers has previously essentially washed his hands of the entire Simmons saga in Philly which included legal proceedings, the highly-respected head coach still has faith in the embattled player.

John Hollinger of The Athletic explained that a Simmons deal was unlikely at this trade deadline since his value had sunk so low. Perhaps, to Rivers’ point, he will be able to thrive surrounded by multiple players who are better off the catch than with a live dribble.

There was a report that Brooklyn was in talks with the Toronto Raptors on a deal that would have sent Simmons North for Pascal Siakam, perhaps they revisit those in the summer.