Doc Rivers Bullish On Getting Ben Simmons Back For Philly

Screen Shot from First Take

As the saga continues for Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers, new developments have erupted from the organization’s side.

Head coach Doc Rivers went on “First Take” with Stephen A. Smith to make a play toward winning back their superstar.

“We’re not going to give up on that,” said Rivers. “You know how I feel about Ben. … I’ve always defended him, I just love how he plays, I love a lot of the things that he does for our team. Unfortunately, we focus so much on his offense and we don’t focus on a lot of other things he does.

“Ben’s been under a lot of pressure in Philadelphia, we know that. Having said that, we were one game away from the Eastern Finals last year. No one picked us to be where we were at. And so I look at last year as the first step, not the last step. … We have to go through all of this to get him back, there’s no doubt about that.”

Rivers’ Last Stand

The Sixers have had to contend with public opinion about the shooting woes of their Aussie point guard. In addition, the perception that the team is built around Joel Embiid has been almost universal.

Additionally, the coach-to-player relationship between Rivers and Simmons was strained over the summer. Rivers’ interview was his public opus to express love and loyalty to Simmons. It was an attempt to restart talks to get Simmons off the ledge, but the reality is that Simmons has been pretty adamant about wanting to leave.

However, for Rivers, it is all par for the course in the sports entertainment business.

“There’s been so many times this has happened [in sports] that hasn’t been reported … and the guy comes back. So, listen, we’re going to 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.”

Postgame Press Mess

The biggest issue between Rivers and Simmons stems from the aftermath of their Game 7 loss to Atlanta. In separate interviews from Rivers and Embiid to the media, they seemed to skew towards not trusting Simmons’ brand of play long-term.

Rivers was asked whether Simmons could be a championship point guard at the Game 7 postgame press conference. However, his response was taken as a lack of confidence in Simmons.

Game 7 Post-Game Press Conference Media Question:
“Do you think Ben Simmons can still be a point guard for a championship team like the one you guys want to become?”

“I don’t know that question or the answer to that right now,” said Rivers. “You know, so I don’t know the answer to that.”

Rivers attempted to clear that up confusion today on “First Take.”

“I want to correct that. I would love you guys to play what I said, because, and I’ve told you this before, Stephen A., I never said what was reported.”

Rivers Deep

“The question was asked about Ben, it was the first question after we just lost Game 7, my answer was, ‘I’m not answering any of that stuff right now, guys, I don’t even know how to answer that. That had nothing to do what’s about Ben, I was basically just saying I’m not answering that crap, those questions.

“It was being portrayed that I was out there saying I don’t think we can win with Ben, and I do. I told Ben that the next day. What really disappointed me was the next day I went on and said, guys, y’all knew exactly what I was talking about, and no one heard it. They just kept running their narrative.

“I’ve been in sports a long time, and I’m not misrepresented very often, but in that case, I was. But it is what it is. Ben knows, Rich knows, and I know,” Rivers said.

The drama between Simmons and the Sixers has ramifications for the future relationship between player-to-organization-to-league. Rivers moved the latest chess piece, and now the ball is in Simmons’ court.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.