Sixers Reveal Plan for Fixing Ben Simmons: ‘We’re Not Hiding’

Ben Simmons, Doc Rivers

Getty Sixers head coach Doc Rivers plans to get in the gym this offseason and work with Ben Simmons in the offseason.

Ben Simmons has been a reluctant shooter over his first 275 NBA games. The Philadelphia 76ers starting point guard has been a liability at the free-throw line, something that hurt the team dearly in the playoffs as he had to be removed from games in crunch time. This offseason is dedicated to fixing Simmons, according to Doc Rivers.

The Sixers head coach repeatedly said there is a detailed plan in place to get the 24-year-old on track. Rivers wouldn’t give any specifics on the “what and how” for making him a better all-around player but the franchise appears committed to the No. 1 overall pick from the 2016 draft. It won’t be easy to change some of his stubborn habits.

“I know exactly what we want to do. I’m positive in Ben. I’m very bullish on Ben still,” Rivers told reporters on Monday. “But there’s work [to do], there is, and Ben will be willing to do it and that’s the key. Sometimes, you have to go through stuff to see it and be honest with it. And there’s areas that he can fix quickly in my opinion and get better in that will take him to another level and sometimes you don’t know why you’re in different places. You know what I mean? But this may be one of them and I look at this as a great challenge but definitely a doable one.”

Simmons was the runner-up for NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2021 but shot a miserable 61.3% from the charity stripe. That number dipped to 34.2% in the playoffs, the single-worst mark in postseason history.

“We’re not hiding that Ben has to become a better free-throw shooter and a more confident free-throw shooter,” Rivers said. “And if that happens, I really believe a lot of other parts of his game follows. Before the season started the first thing I said was we got to get him to the line 10 times a night and to want to get him to the line 10 times a night, and so we got to put in work so he can get there. But if we can get him there, man, his game goes to a different level.”

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Tough Year Off the Court for Young Star

The other part of Simmons’ tough 2021 campaign that sometimes went unspoken was his family drama off the court. His sister, Olivia, claimed that her half-brother had molested her as a child and the story made national headlines in April.

Making matters worse, the alleged perpetrator, Sean Tribe, was Simmons’ manager at the time. And while Tribe has since denied the accusations, it certainly must have hung an extra cloud over Simmons this year.

“It’s so much harder for guys today than when I played,” Rivers said. “Thank God we didn’t have Instagram and Twitter and all that stuff.”

Rivers would never claim to know what Simmons was thinking or how he felt about the incident. His star player never confided in him. However, the championship-winning coach thinks it had to have affected him in some way. How could it not?

“It’s another example, and I’m trying to say this right, where players are real people — and they have real lives and they have real stuff going on,” Rivers said. “I have never had to deal with the public stuff that Ben had to deal with with my family … but, I would say if I had to, it would have affected me. In some way or another. I can’t tell you if it affected him on the floor or not, I don’t know that.”

Rivers trying to Sixers’ Culture, Too

The “Trust the Process” days are over in Philadelphia. Sure, it’s fun to talk about former general manager Sam Hinkie and what went into assembling the nucleus of the current Sixers team. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons wouldn’t be here without it. But it’s time to turn the page and establish a new culture, a winning culture.

“I think what we have done is started to build a foundation to get to where we’re going,” Rivers said. “We thought we were going to get it by not, taking some shortcuts, and it just doesn’t happen that way. The culture of this team and around this team [needs to keep improving]. The teaching, not just the players, but even off-the-floor staff, on driving this entire organization, like everybody has to be in. To me, that is what we have to keep trying to improve and the more we keep improving that around them, the more they’ll do it themselves.”

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