Ben Simmons is a long way from the player he was in breaking into the league with the Philadelphia 76ers, but Doc Rivers is rooting for the former All-Star to find his way back.
The Sixers coach spoke out about his former player, who has been relegated to a reserve role on a rapidly changing Brooklyn Nets team. Simmons has seen a major dip in production across the board this season, registering career lows in points (7.3), rebounds (6.5) and assists (6.3) and minutes per game (27.1).
Doc Rivers Pulling for Ben Simmons
The Nets drastically altered their trajectory for the season with a pair of swift trades that shipped out Irving and Durant before last week’s trade deadline, leaving Simmons as the last man standing for the once-super trio. But Simmons didn’t see much of a change in his first game without Durant and Irving, still coming off the bench in his team’s 101-98 loss to the Sixers on February 11 and scoring just four points in 16 minutes.
After Saturday’s game, Rivers said he hopes Simmons is able to turn around his career and return to the All-Star form he showed with the Sixers.
“I always have an affection for the guys I coach,” Rivers said, via USA Today’s Sixers Wire. “It never goes away. It doesn’t and I believe he can get back to where he was with us. Especially, now that he’s gonna have the ball in his hands more. I think that’s what we did that kinda freed him up, but it’s just gonna take time. Now, what, it’s been a year and a half? I don’t think it’ll be overnight, but he’s working, and that’s all you can do. I hope the best.”
Simmons had a strong start to his career in Philadelphia, winning Rookie of the Year in the 2017-18 season and being named an All-Star in three of his first four seasons.
Simmons’ Replacements Stand Out
While some expected Simmons to take a more front-and-center role with the departures of Irving and Durant, it was another Brooklyn player who stepped up for the team’s first week without the two stars. Mikal Bridges, the former Phoenix Suns reserve who came to the Nets in the Durant trade, led the team with 23 points in Saturday’s loss to the Sixers.
Meanwhile, the player the Sixers landed in last year’s trade that shipped Simmons to the Nets wasn’t too keen on looking back at his turbulent tenure in Brooklyn. James Harden spoke out about his trade after Saturday’s win, hinting that there were some deeper problems in Brooklyn.
“I didn’t just ask to leave for no reason,” Harden said, via ESPN. “I was in a really good place in Houston. Obviously, we didn’t have a chance to win a championship, but I was comfortable. So for me to up and leave my family, all the things I created there, to come to Brooklyn for a year and a half to try to just get up and leave, it was for a reason, you know what I mean? But I’m happy for the organization and what they’ve got back. They got some really good pieces.”