Atlantic Notes: Rivers, Simmons, C. Johnson, Dick

Sixers players are eager to welcome back Doc Rivers, who will return to Philadelphia this afternoon for the first time since being fired as the team’s head coach last spring, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Rivers was out of coaching for just a few months, leaving an analyst job with ESPN to take over the Bucks in January. Most of the Sixers’ roster played under Rivers, including Tyrese Maxey, who developed into an All-Star with help from his former coach.

“I appreciate Doc, you know? I really do,” Maxey said. “I think one thing that I do appreciate him for is early in my career, like my rookie year, he made me earn my spot, and that’s gonna go a long way for me. I felt like I was good enough to play, but he was able to humble me and make me earn my spot.”

Rivers still had two seasons remaining on his contract when the Sixers decided to dismiss him following a Game 7 loss to Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals. It marked the third straight year the team had been ousted in the second round, and management believed a change was necessary to make a longer playoff run.

Paul Reed, who has become Philadelphia’s starting center while Joel Embiid is injured, tells a similar story to Maxey’s, saying Rivers guided him to become a better player.

“I had to earn minutes with Doc,” Reed said. “He wouldn’t give young guys minutes. I just learned how to play the game the right way. It ain’t all about scoring.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets guard Ben Simmons was forced out of Saturday night’s game after hurting his left leg in the third quarter, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Interim coach Kevin Ollie originally told reporters that Simmons injured his knee and would have imaging done, but a team spokesman later clarified that the injury is elsewhere on the leg and that no tests are planned. Injuries have limited Simmons to 14 games this season and 56 total since Brooklyn acquired him in 2022.
  • Cameron Johnson came off the bench for the second straight game since Ollie took over as the Nets‘ interim coach, Lewis adds. Ollie indicated that Johnson, who signed a four-year, $95MM extension last summer, will be given a chance to win his starting job back. “Roles are going to change; nothing is permanent,” Ollie said. “But I want him to embrace this team role that he has and come out there and play his best minutes. And I think we’re going to see that from CJ and understanding that we have to do things as a team and focus on that.”
  • Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic believes Gradey Dick is “getting more comfortable playing NBA minutes” (YouTube video link). The rookie shooting guard has settled into a regular bench role and scored 18 points Friday in Atlanta.
View Comments (4)