Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers has taken heat all offseason for comments he made about Ben Simmons. Play the whole audio track and it’s not bad as previously thought. However, the narrative is out there and Simmons remains unhappy about it.
The controversy started back on June 20, after Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, when a reporter asked Rivers if he thought Simmons was a championship-level point guard. The 59-year-old pre-empted his response by saying “I don’t know” how to answer that. It was interpreted as a knock on Simmons, with the implication being that Rivers “I don’t know” if the three-time All-Star could lead Philly to a title.
On Wednesday (Sept. 22), Rivers told ESPN’s Keyshawn, JWill, and Max that the running narrative isn’t what he meant. He clarified his initial comment, then added the organization is trying to convince Simmons to return.
“That’s not what I said, actually,” Rivers told ESPN. “This is when narratives … and this is what makes our jobs hard. I actually said when the guy asked, guys, I’m not answering that stuff right now. I don’t even know how to answer that. So what I was talking about was not answering the question. It had nothing to do with Ben.”
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Rivers Accused of ‘Brazenly Lying’ by Media
Some reporters are accusing Rivers of “brazenly lying” after listening to his clarification. Kyle Neubeck of the Philly Voice posted a series of tweets where he rehashed the details from the night in question, right after Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on June 20.
Neubeck pointed out that Rivers was asked about Simmons early in the Zoom press conference on June 20 and threw his star point guard under the bus.
(For the record, this reporter was on the Zoom call that night and didn’t interpret the comment as a diss. Fumbled words? Yes. Was Rivers trying to blame Simmons? No. He had been defending the Aussie star all year).
Sixers Say They Want Simmons Back
Rivers was making the media rounds on Wednesday (Sept. 22) and doubling down on his story. The Sixers head coach made it clear on ESPN’s “First Take” that he wanted Simmons on the roster for the 2021-22 season. Whatever happened back in June shouldn’t be an issue. The Sixers want Simmons back.
“There’s been so many times that this has happened that hasn’t been reported, and the guy comes back,” Rivers said, via The Inquirer. “Listen, we’re gonna go through it. We’re gonna always do what’s best for the team. But I can tell you up front, we would love to get Ben back and, if we can, we’re gonna try to do that. Ben has a long contract, so it’s in our hands, and we want him back.”
The latest reports indicate Simmons intends to sit out training camp until he’s traded. And he doesn’t care how much the Sixers fine him. Simmons never wants to wear a Sixers uniform again. Period. Training camp begins on Sept. 27 in Camden, NJ.