Eastern Conference Contender Called Best Team to ‘Fix Ben Simmons’

Pat Riley, Jimmy Butler

Getty Heat president Pat Riley promised to get Jimmy Butler a championship in his prime.

The Miami Heat have built a reputation as a tough, disciplined, no-nonsense club under Pat Riley. They call it Heat Culture. Maybe that would be the perfect environment to motivate one of the brightest young stars in basketball.

Ben Simmons appears to be on the trading block, depending on whose word you trust the most. The Philadelphia 76ers’ starting point guard drew sharp criticism in the playoffs for underperforming, specifically at the free-throw line and was taken out in the clutch moments of games. There are reports that Simmons has been “constantly babied” by those around him. Well, a change of scenery in South Beach might just change all that.

Retired NBA player Brian Scalabrine – analyst for NBC Sports Boston and SiriusXM NBA Radio – thinks sending Simmons to Miami would fix everyone’s problems. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra isn’t a traditional coach and Simmons isn’t a traditional player. Two peas in a pod. And the Sixers might be able to get some shooting back in the deal, maybe Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson. Or Tyler Herro and a future pick.

Here is what Scalabrine said recently on an episode of “The Starting Lineup” on SiriusXM NBA Radio:

I think the Miami Heat could fix him. I really believe that. I don’t think a lot of organizations can fix him. I think the Miami Heat could fix Ben Simmons. If I’m Pat Riley, he would be my whale, and Erik Spoelstra is not a traditional coach. He’ll run whacky things for Ben Simmons.

By the way, Erik Spoelstra put James Johnson at the point guard and played James Johnson at the point a bunch of possessions, so I’m telling you, the Miami Heat could fix him, and Erik Spoelstra as a coach could fix Ben Simmons.

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Doc Rivers Not Being Trusted to Fix Simmons?

It’s interesting that Scalabrine is jettisoning Simmons to Miami over keeping in Philly to work on his all-around game with Doc Rivers. Scalabrine played under the Sixers head coach for five seasons when Rivers was the front man for the Boston Celtics. The two won a championship together in 2008. It stands to reason that they know each other inside and out, yet Scalabrine doesn’t sound like he’s trusting Rivers to fix Simmons.

“I’m very bullish on Ben still,” Rivers said. “But there’s work. There is. And Ben will be willing to do it, and that’s the key.”

The organization has publicly stated that Simmons remains a foundational piece, one they intend to keep and fix. But that hasn’t stopped several teams from reaching out to “check in” on him as the Sixers weigh their options. And vice versa. Simmons’ agent Rich Paul recently sat down with Philly brass to discuss the future.

“The first thing I’m going to do is clear my mind and get my mental right,” Simmons said after Atlanta beat Philly in Game 7. “You got to be mentally tough. You can’t take games for granted. Especially in the playoffs. Every game matters. Every possession matters.”

Beef with Jimmy Butler Could Prevent Trade

The Miami Heat are committed to Jimmy Butler and want to do everything they can to keep him happy. The five-time All-Star is looking to ink a four-year max contract extension worth an estimated $181 million. He has been lobbying for another scorer, not a defensive stopper and assist machine like Simmons. That means Riley would likely have to get Butler’s approval before making the leap for the Sixers’ point guard.

Keep in mind, Butler and Simmons were teammates in Philly for 55 games in 2019 and nearly advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. However, there were reports of friction between the two stars and Butler may have opted to leave for Miami due to Simmons’ reluctance to give up the main ball-handling duties. Butler enjoys being the facilitator for the Heat and might want zero parts of a reunion with a guy who is still searching for a jump shot almost three years later.

Then again, Butler did deny that he had any problem with Simmons or Joel Embiid or any other player on the Sixers’ roster when asked about it after getting traded to the Heat. In fact, Butler said he kept in touch with several of his old teammates.

“I didn’t have a problem with either one of them,” Butler said in 2020, via Sports Illustrated. “Still talk to those dudes. I wish them the absolute best. A career of great health, make as much money as you can, win as many championships as you can. I did not have a problem with any of those guys. It just didn’t work the way that we wanted it to work. That’s life. Not everything pans out the way you want it to pan out. But you learn and you move on from it.”

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