The welcome mat wasn’t necessarily out, but Ben Simmons’ key card worked. The disgruntled point guard arrived at the Philadelphia 76ers practice facility to meet with key personnel, including Doc Rivers.
The Sixers head coach confirmed he had a brief discussion with Simmons and it “went good.” Rivers wouldn’t divulge exactly what the two talked about behind closed doors, but the mood around the team has been upbeat. Everyone is staying positive, although there is a certain degree of awkwardness because no one knows Simmons’ true intentions.
“I learned one thing, I don’t ever get in another man’s head. I really don’t,” Rivers told reporters. “I actually tell my coaches when they tell me during a game or after practice ‘I think what he was thinking was’ … but you don’t know what he was thinking.
“You only know what he did and the fact that he was here, that he showed up, that he conversated – all I know is by his actions is that he showed up and he was here. I’m going to let you guys get into what he was thinking and what he was feeling.”
There is a feeling that Simmons may just be going through the motions until his representation works out a trade. And he has no desire to actually play. Rivers can’t worry about that.
“You know, I don’t know,” Rivers said. “I think he’s voiced that, but we’ll see how that works out.”
There is no timeline either. Simmons isn’t allowed to practice with his teammates until he clears all of the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The earliest that can happen is October 15. Coincidentally, the Sixers close out their preseason slate that night in Detroit. Will Simmons be in a Sixers uniform?
“Not ruling that out. At all,” Rivers said. “Whether we play him or not, that’s going to depend on what we see this week. He’s coming from behind since he hasn’t been in the gym.”
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No Apology Necessary, Per Teammate
Danny Green has become the pulse of the Sixers, the all-knowing Oracle who mentors the youngsters and sets the temperature of the locker room. The three-time champion told reporters he hadn’t seen or talked to Simmons since his return. But Green has been listening to the same media reports everyone else has and echoed how much the team wants him back.
“We expressed that multiple times, we want him back, we want him back,” Green said. “I get the same news you guys do. I haven’t seen him yet. When he’s in the building, we’ll acclimate him appropriately.”
As far as if he needs to issue an apology to his teammates, Green said no. He compared it to any other workplace issue, like a co-worker calling out for a few days with a sickness. Life goes on as normal when that person heads back into the office.
“If he does, he does. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t,” Green said. “It doesn’t matter to us at this point. I’m not asking him to do anything different. Come to work and do what you normally do because what he normally does is very effective.”
Practice Schedule Moving Forward
The first hurdle for Simmons to clear was acing the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The three-time All-Star took a required physical and underwent COVID-19 testing, then headed to Saint Joseph’s University to get some shots up (via Howard Eskin). Rivers said he expected Simmons to return to the Sixers practice facility in Camden, NJ for individual work later in the evening.
“He did all the stuff,” Rivers said. “All the physicals and testing and everything else he needed to do.”
After that, Rivers plans to just throw him right in. He never had a Plan B or a different set of rules in case Simmons never showed up. The Sixers will continue to practice the same way and there won’t be any adjustments to the offense, other than Simmons sliding in as the starting point guard.
“Just get back in and start playing. He’s good enough. We know that already,” Rivers said. “What we run isn’t going to change just because one guy comes onto the floor. Everybody plays the same.”