Doc Rivers

COVID-19 Updates: Caruso, Hill, Collins, Morris, Rivers, More

One of the few players not affected by a stint in the NBA’s health and safety protocols last month, Bulls guard Alex Caruso has now entered the protocols, tweets K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Caruso, who has missed Chicago’s last six games due to a sprained foot, appeared to be nearing a return. If he contracted COVID-19, his return will obviously be delayed, but it will give his foot more time to get back to 100%.

Here are more protocol-related updates from across the league:

  • Hawks big man John Collins has exited the COVID-19 protocols and is expected to meet the team in Los Angeles, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. Atlanta faces the Lakers in L.A. on Friday and the Clippers on Saturday. Meanwhile, hardship addition Cameron Oliver has entered the protocols for Atlanta, tweets Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Unless he returned a false positive or inconclusive test result, Oliver almost certainly won’t clear the protocols before his deal expires on Friday night.
  • Bucks guard George Hill is the latest Milwaukee player to enter the health and safety protocols, tweets Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The team now has a league-high six players in the protocols, though Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Jordan Nwora, and Semi Ojeleye are being listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game vs. Toronto, which suggests they’re on the verge of exiting.
  • Nuggets guard Monte Morris confirmed on his Twitter account that he’s out of the health and safety protocols and prepared to return to action. Morris is still listed as questionable for Wednesday’s contest vs. Utah, but it sound like he expects to play.
  • Sixers head coach Doc Rivers is out of the protocols and will resume his duties on Wednesday vs. Orlando, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Thunder rookie Jeremiah Robinson-Earl has cleared the protocols and is being listed as available for Wednesday’s game in Minnesota, tweets Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City no longer has any players in the protocols.
  • Our health and safety protocols tracker, which is updated multiple times daily, can be found right here.

Doc Rivers, Michael Malone Enter COVID-19 Protocols

Two more NBA head coaches have entered the health and safety protocols and won’t be on the sidelines for their respective teams in the short term.

Adrian Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter) that Sixers coach Doc Rivers has entered the protocols, while Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link) hears from a source that Nuggets coach Michael Malone has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now in the protocols.

In Philadelphia, assistant Dan Burke will take over for Rivers as the 76ers’ acting head coach, according to Wojnarowski. Malone will be replaced in Denver by assistant David Adelman for the time being, says Singer.

The list of head coaches in the protocols continues to grow — Frank Vogel, Billy Donovan, Monty Williams, Chauncey Billups, and Mark Daigneault are also currently affected. Rick Carlisle and Alvin Gentry were in the protocols earlier in the month but have since resumed coaching the Pacers and Kings, respectively.

In addition to placing Rivers in the health and safety protocols today, the Sixers also had two more players enter — Myles Powell and Tyler Johnson are now in the protocols and have been ruled out for Thursday’s game vs. Brooklyn, tweets Wojnarowski.

Atlantic Notes: Tatum, Griffin, Doc, Rose, Walker

After weeks of drama, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has reasserted himself as the team’s leader, on and off the court, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic.

“My teammates, my coaches and everyone we play know what I’m capable of,” Tatum said on a night he scored 32 points but the Celtics lost 107-104 to the Mavericks. “It’s a long season and we have a lot of games to play, obviously. You see everything people say and you hear everything, but that’s part of it. I should be worried if you guys stop talking about me. That would be a problem. But it’s part of the business, part of what I do, and take it with a grain of salt.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets starting center Blake Griffin enjoyed his best night of the season against his former club, the Pistons. Griffin, who scored 13 points and five rebounds, appears to be overcoming his early struggles in the season, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “We love that Blake brings it and gives us that physicality,” said head coach Steve Nash. “He’s also a very intelligent player, so he’s taking charges, fighting on the glass and understands our concepts defensively.”
  • With the Sixers‘ 114-105 victory over the Bulls, head coach Doc Rivers earned his 1,000th win as a coach, writes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Across his 23 combined seasons coaching the Magic, Celtics, Clippers and now Philadelphia, Rivers has posted a 1,000-706 record. The Sixers currently lead the Eastern Conference with an 8-2 record on the young season, despite several key player absences for multiple games.
  • The impressive play of Knicks reserve guard Derrick Rose could result in fewer minutes for starter Kemba Walker, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. Head coach Tom Thibodeau most recently played Rose for 31 minutes while restricting Walker to just 15 in a 113-98 comeback win over the Bucks. Walker, who has struggled with knee injuries in recent years, will be resting tonight against the Cavaliers in the first of New York’s back-to-back games this season, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News (Twitter link).

Sixers Notes: Milton, Offseason, Contention, Simmons

Sixers reserve guard Shake Milton continues to struggle with a sprained ankle. Head coach Doc Rivers said today that Milton was “nowhere near” being ready to rejoin his teammates in Philadelphia’s season-opening contest on Wednesday against the Pelicans, tweets Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Times. Rivers added that he expects Milton to be unavailable “for a while.”

The 6’5″ Milton, selected with the No. 54 pick in the 2018 draft, enjoyed a breakout year with the Sixers during the 2020/21 season, averaging career highs of 13.0 PPG, 3.1 APG and 2.3 in 63 games.

There’s more out of the City of Brotherly Love:

  • After a tumultuous offseason that saw an extended holdout from All-Star Ben Simmons, the Sixers have their work cut out for them to remain a contender in the East. John Hollinger of The Athletic supplies a fresh recap for Philadelphia’s offseason moves and examines the club’s cap situation in a new season preview. Hollinger offers high marks for the club’s value free agency signings, especially applauding the addition of reserve power forward Georges Niang and the re-signings of wings Danny Green and Furkan Korkmaz to team-friendly deals.
  • The Sixers are optimistic they can compete for a title, even with the situation surrounding disgruntled star Ben Simmons still unsettled, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer“If you don’t have great expectations, you are not going to have great success,” head coach Doc Rivers observed. “We have to be able to handle the expectations that we create.”
  • After successfully clearing team health and safety protocols, embattled Sixers All-Star Ben Simmons has resumed practicing with Philadelphia as a full participant, writes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Head coach Doc Rivers said he intends to treat Simmons as if he will playing with the club going forward. “Well we have to,” Rivers said. “As a coach, I’m literally in a tough spot, right? But we literally have to.” According to an ESPN report, it remains uncertain when Simmons will play actual games for the Sixers. “When he’s ready, he’ll play,” Rivers said.

Ben Simmons Takes Physical, Meets With Sixers’ Brass

After returning to Philadelphia on Monday, Sixers star Ben Simmons took his required physical and met with the team’s brass on Tuesday, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. That meeting included president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, who says sources described it only as “brief.”

Both Pompey and Shelburne indicate that Simmons won’t be cleared to participate in any team-related activities until at least Friday, due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols. As Brian Windhorst observed during an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up (video link) on Wednesday, that timeline suggests Simmons may not yet be fully vaccinated, since the league requires fully vaccinated players to register just one negative PCR test in order to interact with other players. Players who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated require at least four negative tests upon reporting to the team, according to ESPN.

We don’t know yet whether Simmons actually intends to return to the court and play for the 76ers following his holdout, but for what it’s worth, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report says the 25-year-old’s physical showed no signs that he isn’t healthy. Simmons will be able to begin conducting individual workouts with the assistance of Sixers coaches on Wednesday, Fischer notes.

As we wait to see what the next steps are for the Sixers and Simmons, there’s no indication that the team is anywhere close to making a trade. Both Fischer and Sam Amick of The Athletic have heard that Philadelphia continues to hold out hope that a star like Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal will become dissatisfied with his situation and ask for a trade, but that remains a long shot unless the Trail Blazers or Wizards get off to a really disastrous start this season.

According to Amick, Simmons’ camp hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a trade to the Nets, but sources with knowledge of the situation tell The Athletic that the Sixers have exhibited zero interest in pursuing a deal involving Kyrie Irving.

Fischer names the Cavaliers, Pistons, Rockets, Pacers, Timberwolves, Blazers, Kings, Spurs, and Raptors as the nine teams that have remained at least somewhat engaged with Philadelphia, and adds that a “mystery” 10th club has also had “substantive” discussions with the Sixers as of late. Not even Klutch Sports is certain of the identity of that 10th team, per Fischer, who cautions that the mystery suitor still hasn’t come close to meeting Morey’s asking price.

Here’s more on Simmons:

  • Sources tell Fischer that the Sixers have informed potential trade partners whose offers would be heavy on draft picks that their best bet would be a three-team structure in which Philadelphia lands at least one impact player, since Morey and his front office are interested in win-now pieces rather than future assets.
  • Although the Timberwolves still have interest in Simmons following their front office shake-up, new head of basketball operations Sachin Gupta isn’t believed to be pursuing the three-time All-Star as aggressively as Gersson Rosas did, according to Fischer.
  • The Kings remain unwilling to discuss either De’Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton in a potential Simmons deal, while the Sixers appear unmoved by the idea of acquiring Dejounte Murray and/or Lonnie Walker from the Spurs, sources tell Bleacher Report. Fischer adds that there’s a belief the Pistons would entertain trading Jerami Grant in a deal for Simmons.
  • Improving the relationship between Simmons and head coach Doc Rivers is believed to be a priority for the Sixers if Simmons is going to stick around for a little while, according to Fischer, who says the two men never seemed to build a strong rapport last season. Sources tell Bleacher Report that during an offseason meeting at agent Rich Paul‘s home, when the Sixers confirmed they intended to fine Simmons for not complying with the terms of his deal, Rivers shouted, “It’s in your f–king contract” to report to training camp and play for the team.

Atlantic Notes: Watanabe, Gillespie, Birch, Achiuwa, Simmons, Millsap

Despite dealing with a calf strain, Yuta Watanabe is a safe bet to make the Raptors’ opening-night roster, according to Blake Murphy of Watanabe is a multi-position defender and the coaching staff is looking for him to play a bigger offensive role. His partially guaranteed contract becomes fully guaranteed if he’s on the 15-man after training camp.

Freddie Gillespie, whose partially-guaranteed deal also becomes fully guaranteed on opening night, may be playing his way off the Raptors’ roster, Murphy writes. Gillespie struggled in summer league games and hasn’t looked any better in preseason action.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors center Khem Birch was cleared to make his preseason debut on Monday after a bout with COVID-19, Michael Grange of tweets. Birch, along with his wife and daughter, caught the virus and he experienced symptoms despite being fully vaccinated. Birch re-signed with Toronto on a three-year deal this summer.
  • Birch and Precious Achiuwa will split the minutes at the center spot on an almost even platoon when the regular season commences, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. It’s not certain who will start but the Raptors will ease Birch back into action. Chris Boucher will be out at least another 2-3 weeks as he recovers from finger surgery.
  • Amid reports that the possibility of Ben Simmons reporting to the Sixers is growing, coach Doc Rivers said on Monday that “we would love to get him back,” Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Rivers has spoken with Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul, adding that “our position hasn’t changed at all.”
  • Nets forward Paul Millsap was also sidelined briefly by the league’s health and safety protocols during camp but he was cleared to play in Monday’s preseason game, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Millsap only missed one preseason contest.

Atlantic Notes: Harden, Knox, Rivers, Birch

Nets superstar James Harden is still working on getting his conditioning back to 100%, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Lewis notes that Harden has fully healed from a hamstring injury sustained during the playoffs — but that his next challenge is getting back into shape.

“He hasn’t really played since the Boston series, and before that, he hadn’t played for a long time either,” head coach Steve Nash explained. So he hasn’t played a lot of basketball, period, since the [2020] bubble. It’s been stop-start for him. He still wants to get his legs under him, and then can feel a few new levels for him to go.”

Brooklyn is poised to re-add Harden to a starting five of Kyrie Irving, Joe Harris, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin this season. The 32-year-old played 44 games with the Rockets and Nets last season, averaging 24.6 points and 10.8 assists per contest.

Here are some other notes from the Atlantic Division:

  • Kevin Knox‘s future with the Knicks remains cloudy entering the season, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Knox only played in 42 games last season (11 minutes per contest), and sources told Berman it was largely due to his low motor and lack of defensive toughness. Knox was drafted by the franchise with the No. 9 pick in 2018.
  • Sixers head coach Doc Rivers helped recruit Andre Drummond and Georges Niang to the team in free agency, Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Both Drummond and Niang are expected to provide depth in the frontcourt as bench players this season. “That was the swinger in me wanting to be here,” Niang said of his phone conversation with Rivers. “Just simply because that’s the guy that’s taking me in and out of the game. He had a vision for me, and it aligned with [how] I thought I fit in. He wants to win right away, and so do I. I want to be in a good culture, and that’s what he’s building here. Obviously, when I got off the phone, I was real excited because I thought, before I even made the decision, I had a home here in Philly.”
  • Raptors big man Khem Birch has missed the start of training camp due to health and safety protocols, Blake Murphy of Sportsnet tweets. Birch appeared in 19 games with Toronto last season, averaging 11.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 30.4 minutes per contest.

Ben Simmons Unmoved By Sixers’ Media Day Comments

Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and star center Joel Embiid were among the prominent figures within the organization who spoke on Monday at the team’s Media Day about the Ben Simmons situation, expressing a hope that the three-time All-Star would end his holdout and report to Philadelphia.

However, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic, the team’s messages “fell flat” from the perspective of Simmons and his camp, and – if anything – only added to the 25-year-old’s agitation. Amick suggests that Morey’s claim about there being “a lot of hope” for reconciliation was seen as particularly laughable.

“It’s total bulls–t,” one source with knowledge of Simmons’ thinking said of Morey’s comments, per Amick.

Asked on Monday why Simmons wanted out, head coach Doc Rivers was evasive, suggesting that Philadelphia is a tough place to play, then admitting that Simmons hadn’t specifically given that reason. According to Amick, those comments from Rivers – which shifted the blame away from the team and placed it on Simmons’ relationship with the fans – didn’t help matters either.

Here’s more from Amick on the Simmons situation:

  • Although there’s no animosity between the two stars at a personal level, people with knowledge of the situation believe Simmons has decided he’s done playing with Embiid, says Amick. Sources tell The Athletic that Simmons believes the club’s choice to build its system around Embiid’s style of play isn’t conducive to the way Simmons needs to play. “It has run its course,” an Amick source said of the pairing of the two All-Stars.
  • Simmons and his camp had hoped to avoid this kind of training camp circus when they went to Sixers management and directly requested a trade earlier in the offseason, according to Amick, who suggests the Defensive Player of the Year runner-up thought he would’ve been moved by now.
  • Simmons was so convinced back in January that he’d be traded to the Rockets in a deal for James Harden that he actually started researching Houston real estate, reports Amick. When Harden was sent to Brooklyn, Simmons didn’t publicly gripe about sticking with the Sixers, but it certainly seems possible that the relationship between the two sides had begun fraying as a result of those public negotiations.

Doc Rivers Says Sixers Want Ben Simmons Back

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers appeared on a pair of ESPN shows on Wednesday to address the Ben Simmons situation, expressing on both ‘Keyshawn, JWill, and Max’ and ‘First Take’ that he wants to see the 25-year-old return to Philadelphia for the coming season.

Simmons is reportedly adamantly opposed to the idea of reporting to training camp or playing another game for the 76ers, but Rivers said in his first ESPN appearance on Monday morning that he hopes he and the team can “change that thought.” He later explicitly stated during his First Take appearance that he’d “love” to see Simmons returns to the club, adding that the team hired a shooting coach to help him improve that aspect of his game.

“There’s been so many times this has happened (in sports) that hasn’t been reported…and the guy comes back,” Rivers said, per Kyle Neubeck of “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.”

Rivers confirmed reports that Simmons told team leaders – including Rivers, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, and club owner Josh Harris – in a meeting last month that he wanted to be traded. According to Rivers, it was a “good conversation” and Simmons provided reasons why he didn’t want to return, but the Sixers “obviously didn’t agree” with his arguments.

One of the most interesting aspect of Rivers’ media appearances today was his insistence that his comments about Simmons following Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals were misrepresented by the media. Asked at that time whether he believed Simmons could be the point guard for a championship team, Rivers replied, “I don’t know that question or the answer to that right now. You know, so I don’t know the answer to that.” Today, he attempted to reframe that response.

“My answer was, ‘I’m not answering any of that stuff right now, guys, I don’t even know how to answer that,'” Rivers told Stephen A. Smith on First Take. “… 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.”

While Rivers insisted today on ESPN that Simmons and agent Rich Paul know what he meant, a report earlier this month suggested that Simmons’ camp wasn’t thrilled with Rivers’ comments, so it’s unclear if everyone is on the same page.

Assuming Rivers’ efforts to get Simmons to camp are unsuccessful, this situation will start to get especially interesting next week, when players are scheduled to report to training camps. As Bobby Marks of ESPN explains in an Instagram video, the 76ers would likely be comfortable assessing Simmons a series of small fines if he misses media day (on Monday) and the team’s first few practices. After that though, the financial decisions become more complicated.

Simmons is owed 25% of his $33MM salary for 2021/22 on October 1, and Marks suggests that withholding that payment would be an option for the Sixers if they don’t expect to mend fences with Simmons and are willing to enter an arbitration battle. Suspending Simmons would be another option — in that scenario, he’d lose 1/145th of his salary (about $228K) per game for the first 20 games he misses, then 1/110th of his salary per game after that.

And-Ones: USA Basketball, Mayo, Mejri

Grant Hill has taken over as USA Basketball’s managing director and one of his first tasks is to find a replacement for coach Gregg Popovich. Hill told The Undefeated’s Marc Spears that he plans to hire a new coach before the NBA season begins on October 19.

Candidates that have previous experience with USA Basketball will have the upper hand, according to Spears. That group would include Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce, Jay Wright, Doc Rivers, Nate McMillan, Monty Williams, Tom Thibodeau, Erik Spoelstra and Jeff Van Gundy.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA guard O.J. Mayo has reached an agreement with Russia’s Unics Kazan, Sportando relays. was first to report the news. Mayo was banned by the NBA in 2016 for violating the league’s drug program. Mayo has recently played in China.
  • Former Mavericks big man Salah Mejri has reached an agreement with Al Jahra in Kuwait, according to Sportando. Mejri appeared in 204 games with Dallas from 2015-19.
  • In case you missed it, Jarrell Brantley is expected to sign with a Russian team after being waived by the Jazz. Get the details here.