Doc Rivers

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 PhillyVoice.com. “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. Sport-Business.ru 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.

Latest On Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons doesn’t appear inclined to do the Sixers any favors when it comes to trying to boost his trade value and helping them find a deal. As Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer suggested during a recent appearance on 97.5 The Fanatic Philadelphia that Simmons and his camp weren’t fans of comments made – and actions taken – by head coach Doc Rivers and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey over the course of the year.

Rivers said at the end of the season that he wasn’t sure Simmons could be the point guard for a championship team, while Morey claimed last winter that the Sixers weren’t moving the three-time All-Star, despite the fact that the team was discussing him in James Harden trade negotiations.

“(Simmons’ camp is) saying to themselves, ‘Why should we help the 76ers out?’ when they feel like, when Doc Rivers said what he said, no one apologized,” Pompey said during his radio appearance. “Doc Rivers wasn’t reprimanded by the team or this and that. Or there’s an organization where, in the preseason last year, when they were saying they weren’t trying to trade him, but everyone knew they were trying to trade him.”

Within an in-depth look at the Simmons situation, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps and Bobby Marks say that when the Sixers’ brain trust – including owner Josh Harris – met Simmons and his representatives in Los Angeles last month, the team planned to tell the 25-year-old it couldn’t find a deal for him and hoped to move forward with him.

However, Simmons was steadfast in asking to be traded and made it clear he doesn’t intend to come to training camp if he’s still on the roster by the end of September. According to Bontemps and Marks, while the 76ers may be hoping Simmons can boost his trade value by getting off to a strong start during the regular season, “the point was made” during that L.A. meeting that increasing his value isn’t Simmons’ responsibility.

Here’s more on the Simmons situation:

  • If Simmons doesn’t report to camp, the Sixers would have the option of suspending him and fining him 1/145th of his salary per day, according to Bontemps and Marks. Alternatively, the team could fine him $2,500 for his first missed practice, $5,000 for his second missed practice, and $7,500 for his third, plus “reasonable” fines for any missed practices after that.
  • If the Sixers decide they don’t want to burn any bridges and choose not to suspend or fine Simmons for failing to show up to camp, Bontemps and Marks expect the NBA to step in. As the ESPN duo observes, the league won’t want to set a precedent that a player can decide not to report to camp without being penalized.
  • While he concedes that anything is possible, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said during an appearance on The Jump (video link) that he highly doubts Simmons and the Sixers will be able to repair their relationship.
  • Noting that the Timberwolves and Cavaliers have been frequently mentioned as two of the teams that remain in the hunt for Simmons, Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice considers what hypothetical Simmons trades with those clubs might look like.

Latest On Ben Simmons

The “overwhelming sense” among NBA insiders is that Ben Simmons will likely still be with the Sixers when training camp opens on September 28, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

As Fischer explains, if Damian Lillard becomes available, the likelihood of a Simmons deal would increase significantly, since the Trail Blazers star appears to be Philadelphia’s preferred trade target. However, there’s a belief in league circles that Lillard will open the season in Portland and give new head coach Chauncey Billups a shot, according to Fischer.

Given the ugly way the 2020/21 season ended in Philadelphia, having Simmons report to training camp could create an uncomfortable dynamic. Fischer suggests that Simmons hasn’t personally been in close contact with Joel Embiid, head coach Doc Rivers, or president of basketball operations Daryl Morey this offseason and may welcome a trade — his representatives have canvassed front offices around the NBA this summer about a potential deal, Fischer adds.

However, with trade talk quieting down and teams more focused on filling out their final roster spots than making any blockbuster moves, a deal may not materialize in the next six weeks or so, and the 76ers appear ready for that possibility, Fischer says.

“Daryl is not afraid to go into training camp with a potentially combustible situation,” a source told Bleacher Report.

Here’s more on Simmons:

  • The Timberwolves remain very interested in Simmons, but it will be a challenge for Minnesota to put together a package strong enough to entice the Sixers, according to Fischer, who notes that if Philadelphia makes a non-Lillard deal involving Simmons, the team may try to get pieces that could eventually be flipped to the Trail Blazers for the star guard.
  • Sources from the Trail Blazers and Warriors “categorically denied” rumors that any traction was gained in talks about a potential three-team trade involving the 76ers, reports Fischer.
  • There’s a faction of the Spurs‘ front office rumored to have strong interest in Simmons, according to Fischer, who says San Antonio was willing to discuss Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker prior to the draft.

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Nets Free Agents, Nets Assistants, Stevens

After the Sixers suffered through a seven-game second-round playoff exit as the top seed, head coach Doc Rivers has stated that the club will address the shooting struggles of All-Star Ben Simmons during the offseason, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“I believe, without going into detail with what we’re doing, I believe we know what the right work is, and the right type of work, and the right way to do it,” Rivers said of the Sixers’ plan for Simmons. “We’re not hiding that Ben has to become a better free throw shooter and a more confident free throw shooter.”

During the playoffs this season, Simmons connected on just 34.2% of his 6.1 free throw attempts per game, and attempted one total three-pointer. The Sixers guard was timid in looking to score late in games. He had just three fourth-quarter field goal attempts in the entire series, fewer than role players Dwight Howard, Matisse Thybulle, George Hill, Tyrese Maxey, and Furkan Korkmaz.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Several key Nets players will be free agents during the 2021 offseason, prompting Michael Scotto of HoopsHype to project the market value for the likes of Spencer Dinwiddie, Blake Griffin, Bruce Brown and Jeff Green. The league executives Scotto spoke with speculated that Dinwiddie is looking to leave Brooklyn and will hope to command an annual salary in the “high teens.” Rival NBA executives peg the value of both Griffin and Green as ranging anywhere from the bi-annual exception to the taxpayer mid-level exception. Because Brown is a restricted free agent, the Nets will be able to match any offer sent his way. Executives project Brown to net a yearly salary between $4-7MM.
  • The Nets might not just be undergoing some changes on the hardwood. Their sideline may look a bit different for the 2021/22 season too, as many assistants are in the running for the seven currently available NBA head coaching jobs, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. Berman writes that assistant coach Mike D’Antoni appears to be a finalist for the Trail Blazers head coaching gig, while fellow assistant coach Ime Udoka is in the running for the Celtics’ vacancy.
  • For the first time, Celtics team president Brad Stevens has discussed his decision to trade point guard Kemba Walker and two picks to the Thunder in exchange for Moses Brown, old friend Al Horford, and a 2023 second-round draft pick, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN“The ability to make our wings (All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown) better is going to be a huge part of the people that will be around them,” Stevens said Monday in explaining the thinking behind the deal. Stevens, of course, coached Walker for two injury-plagued seasons before moving into the front office earlier this month. Stevens also cited future finances as a consideration in his decision.

Sixers Notes: Simmons, Rivers, Morey, Curry

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers defended the way he uses Ben Simmons after the team dropped Game 5 against the Hawks Wednesday night, writes Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

Philadelphia had a massive meltdown as a 26-point lead slipped away, and Simmons played a significant role, missing key free throws down the stretch and shooting just 4-of-14 from the line for the game. After talking about the need to be more aggressive, he took just four shots from the field Wednesday, finishing with eight points and nine assists.

Simmons is a miserable 22-of-67 on foul shots during the playoffs, and Atlanta has been taking advantage by intentionally fouling him. As a result, Rivers had to sit Simmons down for several important possessions late in the fourth quarter. That takes the Sixers’ best passer and defender off the court and leaves the team with unfamiliar lineups.

“Do you want to do that?” Rivers said. “The answer would be no. But, you know, when Ben makes ’em, we get to keep him in, when he doesn’t, we can’t. And that’s just the way it is.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • Rivers and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey both deserve blame for some of the team’s flaws that are being exposed this series, Bodner adds. Rivers continues to give important minutes to a reserve unit that hasn’t been effective, Bodner notes, while Morey failed to find an alternative backup center to Dwight Howard, who is a bad matchup against spread offenses.
  • The Sixers, who also blew an 18-point lead in Game 4, are searching for answers on why they can’t hold on to a big advantage, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Tobias Harris believes the team loses focus once it gets in front by a comfortable margin. “The weakness right now is when we gain those leads, we kind of go away from what got us there,” Harris said. “That was playing defense, moving the basketball, getting some good looks. And that’s hurt us the last two games.”
  • Seth Curry never lost confidence in his shot, even as he struggled to find a place in the NBA, writes Alex Kennedy of Basketball News. Curry had one of the best games of his career Wednesday, posting 36 points, three rebounds, seven three-pointers and two steals in the Game 5 loss.

Clippers Notes: Rivers, George, Batum, Ibaka

This year’s condensed season offered little time to rest between games and was played under the threat of pandemic postponements, but the consensus among players and coaches is that it was much easier than the restart last summer in Orlando, writes Mark Medina of USA Today. Former Clippers coach Doc Rivers called it “1,000 times worse” to be stuck for weeks at the Disney World complex.

“Half the players didn’t want to be there,” said Rivers, whose L.A. team squandered a 3-1 lead in the second round last year. “The bubble almost depended on the teams that committed to being there and teams that didn’t. I had a team that obviously was not happy with being in the bubble.”

Clippers forward Paul George spoke for most of the players when he talked about the difficulties of being confined to a strange environment. Players had to remain on a limited portion of the Disney campus and had little contact with the outside world for fear of bringing COVID-19 into the environment.

“This year has been easier because I have outlets,” George said. “I’m able to live a normal life. I can go home. I can see my family, spend time with my family and interact with people outside of this team. That alone has been a big difference to be back to some normalcy.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The Clippers are facing a 2-0 series deficit just as they did in the first round, but the Jazz may be tougher to overcome, suggests Mark Medina of USA Today. No team has ever been able to climb out of multiple 0-2 holes in the same postseason, and the top-seeded Jazz are a much deeper team than the Mavericks squad that L.A. defeated in the first round. “They weren’t ranked No. 1 in the West for no reason. This is a tough team. But we’re approaching this the same way Dallas was,” George said. “As good as they’re playing and as tough as this matchup is, we still feel like there’s moments throughout this game and this series that we’re making plays that are self inflicted. It’s a lot of uphill. But we’re optimistic that we can get this under control.”
  • For tonight’s Game 3, the Clippers are reverting to the smaller lineup that was successful against Dallas, tweets Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Nicolas Batum was back in the starting five, with Ivica Zubac coming off the bench.
  • In case you missed it, Serge Ibaka will miss the rest of the playoffs after undergoing season-ending surgery on his back.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Wiz Series, Wells Fargo Center, Doc

All-Star Sixers center Joel Embiid showed off his MVP-caliber bona fides with his play in Game 3 of Philadelphia’s first-round series against the Wizards, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Embiid scored his efficient 36 points in a variety of ways. He shot 14-of-18 from the floor and 3-of-4 from deep.

“Joel is a special talent,” Wizards All-Star swingman Bradley Beal acknowledged. “He plays like a guard, it’s kind of crazy.” The Sixers won in resounding fashion: the final score was 132-103.

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

  • The Sixers are exploiting a notable size advantage in their series against the Wizards, observes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sixers reserve center Dwight Howard assessed his current team’s vertical edge against his former club. “I just think that the lineup we present with Joel being 7’2″, 300 [pounds is imposing],” Howard said. “We got some big guards. In our second unit, I’m a little bit undersized [6’10”] as a center, but I like the way we are set up.” The Wizards added 6’10” power forward Davis Bertans to their starting lineup and subtracted 6’1″ guard Raul Neto in an effort to counteract the size of the Sixers.
  • The Sixers will return to full fan capacity for their home floor, Wells Fargo Arena, on June 2, tweets Derek Bodner of The Athletic. Bodner adds that the previously-projected return date for full crowd attendance was June 11.
  • After striving to keep a Celtics superstar core happy en route to the 2008 title, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers has thus far appeared up to the task in Philadelphia, too, says Mike Sielski of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sielski notes that Rivers and his staff’s strategy has been to bring out the best from their top player, Embiid, while accentuating the skillset of ancillary star point guard Ben Simmons. “You just communicate it to them,” Rivers said. “But everyone doesn’t have it. A lot of guys want to play the way they play, no matter what. In my opinion, that eventually doesn’t work. If everybody on every team got to play the exact same way that they only wanted to play, I don’t know if you can win that way. It’s tough.”

Atlantic Notes: Payton, Celtics, Barrett, Rivers

The Knicks still have some doubters to prove wrong in the playoffs this year, according to guard Elfrid Payton, as relayed by Alex Kennedy of BasketballNews.com. Payton, who started 63 games for New York this season, averaged 10.1 points, 3.2 assists and 23.6 minutes per contest. This will be his first playoff stint.

“I think we match up well against them,” Payton said of the team’s first-round opponents, the Hawks. “They have a lot of weapons over there, a lot of guys who can shoot the three; John Collins is playing well, (Clint) Capela is a force inside and they’ve got a good bench with Lou Will and (Danilo) Gallinari.

“I think we’re just a little bit deeper and a little bit more physical, and that’s going to make it tough for them. As far as the preparation, it’s been crazy. It’s my first playoffs, so… It’s kinda what I expected, but having so much time off, we were able to really dive into a lot of film and a lot of their tendencies.”

Here are some other notes from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • The Celtics are increasing their crowd capacity for Game 3 against the Nets on Friday, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). Boston will be at “near full” capacity for Game 4, which is set to commence next Sunday.
  • Knicks guard RJ Barrett revealed an interesting game plan for guarding Hawks star Trae Young, as Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News details. Barrett believes his team is better off forcing Young to score instead of making plays for his teammates (he averaged 25.3 points and 9.4 assists per game this season).
  • Sixers head coach Doc Rivers has turned his star-studded team into winners, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Rivers holds several years of coaching experience and memorably guided the Celtics to a championship in 2008. He was also named the NBA’s Coach of the Year with Orlando in 2000.

Monty Williams Wins Coaches Association Award

Suns head coach Monty Williams has won the 2020/21 Michael H. Goldberg award, as voted on by the National Basketball Coaches Association, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

This award, introduced in 2017 and named after longtime NBCA executive director Michael H. Goldberg, is voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches, none of whom can vote for himself. However, it isn’t the NBA’s official Coach of the Year award, which is voted on by media members and is represented by the Red Auerbach Trophy. The winner of that award will be announced later in the year.

Williams earned the Coaches Association’s award after leading the Suns to a 51-21 record, good for second in the NBA. The club had the league’s sixth-ranked defense and seventh-ranked offense, Wojnarowski notes.

The Suns, who were 19-63 in 2018/19, became just the fifth team in NBA history to improve by at least 15 games in back-to-back seasons, per Woj. Williams accomplished that feat in his first two years in Phoenix despite dealing with pandemic-shortened seasons, making the feat even more impressive.

According to Wojnarowski, Scott Brooks (Wizards), Michael Malone (Nuggets), Nate McMillan (Hawks), Doc Rivers (Sixers), Quin Snyder (Jazz), and Tom Thibodeau (Knicks) were among the other coaches who received votes.

The previous winners of this award are as follows:

  • 2020: Mike Budenholzer and Billy Donovan
  • 2019: Mike Budenholzer
  • 2018: Dwane Casey
  • 2017: Mike D’Antoni and Erik Spoelstra