Doc Rivers thinks he knows how to best handle Ben Simmons’ surprise return to the Philadelphia 76ers. The strong-willed head coach has endured contentious trades and awkward holdouts during his playing days. He was part of a contract dispute back in 1991.
Rivers sat out for three weeks in his first and only season with the Los Angeles Clippers. He eventually reported for work and recouped all the money he had lost due to fines. The Sixers honcho recalled the incident following his team’s 115-104 preseason win over the Brooklyn Nets, adding that he was happy Simmons was coming back.
“It was great, I was at home the whole time,” Rivers said of his holdout. “What I remember the most is a terrible story but I’ll tell it: I decided to show up to the first practice and like five players were late, and [Clippers coach] Mike Schuler introduced me to the team and I went off on the guys that hadn’t been on time. I hadn’t even been on the team but I was like, ‘This is so unprofessional.'”
Rivers’ reasons for holding out were different. He wanted more money. Simmons has hurt feelings, among a slew of other reported grievances. And, as Rivers pointed out, the media drives controversy and helps turn athletes into celebrities.
“There’s so much more media now. The game’s so much more popular now,” Rivers said. “Guys are actually famous now, so I do think there’s so many more pressures now.”
The latest Sixers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Sixers newsletter here!
Fighting with Teammates, Best Friends
Rivers has seen and done it all after nearly four decades in the NBA. He understands that uncomfortable situations are bound to happen. Sometimes you are forced to play with guys that you never liked or maybe had a beef with.
Look at Joel Embiid and Andre Drummond. Beef squashed. Players ultimately want to win basketball games, so the pettiness of life usually vanishes into thin air.
“Guys get traded. I’ve played with guys I’ve had a fight with and it’s amazing,” Rivers said. “It could have been the year before you had a skirmish with the guy and right when you get traded to that team, you’re just best friends.”
Embiid joked about always “kicking Drummond’s butt” when they were adversaries. Now as teammates, none of that matters.
“It’s great to be on the same side,” Embiid said. “I have a lot of respect for him, think he’s going to be huge for us this year.”
Simmons’ Return Won’t Be Awkward
When Simmons arrived unannounced at Wells Fargo Center the other night, Twitter was abuzz with memes of him trying to hop the stadium fence. He let know no one know he was coming back, seemingly showing up out of the blue.
Bold move. However, the Sixers have maintained from the start that they are a better team with Simmons. They want him in the starting five this year.
“It’s good for the organization. That’s something that everybody wanted,” Embiid said. “I’ve always said that I believe that he gives us the best chance to win. We are a better team with him than without, that’s for sure, so I’m happy that things are resolved and we can move on and try to be a better team.”
Could it get awkward? Maybe. But Embiid believes the desire to win a championship might alleviate any hard feelings.
“I think there’s going to be some adjustments but it doesn’t need to be awkward,” Embiid said. “We are all professionals. We want to win. I want to win.”