The “Trade Ben Simmons” chants started raining down from the rafters at the Wells Fargo Center in the closing seconds of Game 7. This wasn’t the way the 2021 campaign was scripted for the Philadelphia 76ers or their enigmatic star point guard. Then again, Simmons wasn’t supposed to be a liability in the playoffs.
The 24-year-old attempted just three total field goals through seven fourth quarters during the Eastern Conference semifinals. It’s a brutal yet telling statistic. More alarming, Simmons shot 34.2% from the free-throw line — lowest in a single playoffs in NBA history — and had to be subbed out in crunch time so the opposition couldn’t use the “Hack-a-Ben” strategy.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers tried to put a positive spin on things after the Sixers were eliminated from the postseason on Sunday night. He pointed to the standout defensive job Simmons did on Hawks star Trae Young who went 5-of-23 from the field. He finished with 21 points, but nothing came easy.
“That’s what Ben did so there was a positive to Ben even though people were upset at him,” Rivers said. “Defensively, he did his job tonight on Trae.”
But Rivers was quick to assess the bad part of Simmons’ game. He scored only five points in Game 7 and averaged 9.9 points per game for the series.
“Obviously, he struggled from the free-throw line and that became a factor in the series. There’s no doubt about that,” Rivers said. “Still believe in him, but we have work to do. We’re going to have to get in the gym, put a lot of work in and go forward.”
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Simmons Heard Chants, Boos From Sixers Fans
In addition to the “Trade Ben Simmons” chants ringing out in Game 7, there were audible boos when he went to the line and bricked a free throw with 1:58 left in the fourth quarter. That happened about two minutes after Simmons passed up a wide-open dunk. After the game, the three-time All-Star addressed his issues on the offensive end. All of them.
“You hit on all of it,” Simmons said. “I didn’t shoot well from the line this series. Offensively, I wasn’t there. I didn’t do enough for my teammates. It was a lot. There are a lot of things I need to work on.”
One reporter pressed the issue further and tried to paint a picture of Simmons as a mental midget, a player who can’t rise to the increased pressure of the postseason. The Sixers star didn’t think that was a fair assessment and defended himself.
“I’m not going to let you say that,” Simmons said. “We lost. It sucks. I am who I am. It is what it is. It’s not easy to win.”
Simmons’ final stat line in 11 playoff games: 12.5 points, 8.5 assists, 7.9 rebounds in 33.3 minutes per game. He attempted 8.3 field goals per game and shot 62.6% from the field.
When asked specifically about whether he heard the fans ridiculing him, Simmons replied: “I had a bad series. I expect that. It’s Philly.”
Open to Switching Positions Next Year?
There had been rumblings of possibly moving Simmons to another position. It’s pretty hard to trust a point guard who can’t shoot. Rivers had to literally call a timeout and take Simmons off the floor with 54 seconds showing in the fourth quarter of Game 7. Shake Milton replaced him to prevent the “Hack-a-Ben” strategy.
Perhaps switching the 6-foot-10 Simmons to forward would make him less of an offensive liability and take the ball out of his hands late in games. The bottom line, there are now serious doubts on if he can be the starting point guard on a championship basketball team.
“I don’t know the answer to that right now,” Rivers said. “I don’t know the answer to that.”
And Simmons wasn’t ready to discuss a position change with that Game 7 loss still fresh in his mind.
“I got to do what I got to do and work on my game, get better,” Simmons said. “I’m not really, that’s not my focus right now. We just lost Game 7 … never let the highs get too high and the lows get too low.”