Doc Rivers didn’t share a specific reason for kicking Ben Simmons out of practice. The disgruntled star was a distraction, per Rivers, and the Philadelphia 76ers head coach told Simmons he should leave.
That was it. Rivers wanted to keep the why on how Simmons got the boot internal, telling one reporter: “That’s none of your business.” However, Shams Charania reported that the scuttlebutt was over a defensive drill that Simmons refused to participate in.
Rivers asked the starting point guard twice to join the drill. Both times Simmons replied no. So Rivers sent him home and the Sixers suspended him for the season opener on October 20. His status for the rest of the year remains a question mark.
“I just thought he was a distraction today. I didn’t think he wanted to do what everybody else was doing,” Rivers told reporters. “And it was early, it wasn’t a big deal, I just told him he should leave then and we went on with practice.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski noted that Simmons has been fined $1.4 million for missing four preseason games, among other financial punishments. He hasn’t received a single dollar since returning to the Sixers on October 11.
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Rivers Expects Simmons to Attend Next Practice
Rivers isn’t slamming the door on Simmons for good. He expects to see him back in the gym on October 21 when the Sixers return to practice. No one is going to get too discouraged by one minor disagreement. This thing has to play out organically.
“My job as a coach is to keep trying to get guys to buy in, to be in,” Rivers said. “And, unfortunately, this is tougher, this situation. But that’s my job. We’ve had conversations. We had a good conversation today, that’s not to be shared, that’s between Ben and I.”
When asked if he thought Simmons would attend Thursday’s practice, Rivers said: “We’re going to expect that, yes.”
Fair enough. But the better question is why? Why should the Sixers keep extending the olive branch to an immature player who doesn’t want to be there?
“Because he’s a good player. He could help us,” Rivers said. “Listen, the one thing I know about players is players will welcome anyone back in who wants to be back in. I also know that players will not welcome anyone that doesn’t want to be here. And so when that time comes I guarantee you it won’t be a hard thing to do.”
Teammates Not Feeling Distracted
Joel Embiid has mentally checked out. The All-Star center told reporters he was done babysitting Simmons, adding: “I don’t care about that man.” The Sixers endured three weeks of training camp without him so their focus hasn’t changed much. Believe it or not, they might be better without the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year.
“We have who we have out there on the floor, working, trying to get ready,” Seth Curry told reporters. “And me, personally, I’m not distracted or anything, just going in there trying to get ready for the game tomorrow [October 20].”
Curry said he didn’t see the incident that got Simmons ousted from practice. He looks, at least basketball-wise, like the same Ben Simmons from a year ago. It’s important to separate the off-the-court stuff from what happens between the painted lines.
“Focus on the things you can focus on,” Curry said. “There’s always distractions during the season whether it’s injuries, you know people have stuff going on in their personal lives all the time. Once you step on the floor, you have to focus on the task at hand which is to get better every day and prepare for the game. It feels no different to me.”