76ers coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday during an appearance on ESPN’s “First Take” that his comments about Ben Simmons after Philadelphia’s Game 7 loss to the Hawks in the 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals were “misrepresented.”
Rivers, who after the loss responded, “I don’t know that question or the answer to that right now” when asked about Simmons’ potential to lead a championship team, told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on Wednesday that his remarks had “nothing to do with Ben” and they were directed toward questions he did not want to answer after the game.
Doc Rivers on Ben Simmons informing the 76ers that he wants to be traded;
“I can tell you up front, we would love to get Ben back. And if we can, we’re going to try to do that. pic.twitter.com/JeWoIE3W7U
— First Take (@FirstTake) September 22, 2021
“I was basically saying, ‘I’m not answering that crap,’” Rivers said. “Those questions. What disappointed me, and I don’t do this media thing very often. It was being portrayed that I was out there saying, ‘I don’t think we can win with Ben,’ And I do.”
Rivers’ comments began myriad trade rumors and reported rifts about Simmons, leading to Tuesday’s report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Simmons would not report to the 76ers’ training camp next weekend and intends to never play another game for the franchise.
Wojnarowski reported that Simmons hasn’t spoken to Philadelphia since a meeting in late August, when he communicated his desires to 76ers officials. Rivers said he was previously part of a “good conversation” with Simmons in which he gave his reasons why he wanted to leave, though he is hopeful Philadelphia can get him to return.
“Once we get back in the fold, then we can get to work,” Rivers said. “If that doesn’t happen, then I don’t have an expectation. I don’t know where we would go. That will happen if it happens. But right now, Ben is still part of this team and I’m going to focus on that part of it.”
Simmons still has four years and $147 million left on his max contract. The 76ers could fine or suspend Simmons for his time away, which could deter his willingness to stay off the floor.
For more on the latest trade rumors surrounding Simmons, check out this timeline from Sporting News.
Recapping Simmons’ 2021 season with the 76ers
Last season, Philadelphia finished as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 49-23 record. It finished among the top-five teams in the league in average scoring margin (plus-5.9), opponent points per game (108.2) and opponent effective field goal percentage (51.9) in its first season under Rivers, with Simmons being named a first-team all-defensive selection for the second straight year and an All-Star for the third consecutive season.
However, Simmons, who has been criticized for his lack of perimeter shooting throughout his career, struggled mightily offensively during the second round of the playoffs. In the 76ers’ last three games against the Hawks, Simmons attempted just 14 shots and made 7-of-20 attempts from the free-throw line.
Simmons shot 25-of-73 (33 percent) from the free-throw line overall during the playoffs, which was the second-worst percentage from the stripe in NBA playoff history for a player with at least 50 attempts, according to CBS Sports HQ.
Worst free throw percentage in a single postseason:
2006 | Ben Wallace 27%
2021 | Ben Simmons 34%
2016 | DeAndre Jordan 37%
2006 | Shaquille O’Neal 37%
1968 | Wilt Chamberlain 38% pic.twitter.com/JRbIkrUdQV
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) August 31, 2021