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Doc Rivers ambiguous on Ben Simmons’ playing status

The Sixers’ head coach is “assuming” Ben Simmons will play, but he wasn’t about to say for sure.

Philadelphia 76ers v New York Knicks Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

CAMDEN N.J. — Doc Rivers has to know whether Ben Simmons is reporting to the Sixers to play.

The Sixers’ head coach, who turned 60 on Wednesday, met with the three-time All-Star on Tuesday. Simmons underwent a physical and another COVID test at the team’s practice facility. Simmons is also expected to work out individually — as part of the league’s health and safety protocols — Wednesday evening.

You’d have to imagine Rivers knows whether Simmons plans to put on a Sixers jersey again.

But Rivers played it pretty close to the chest after practice.

“I don’t know that,” Rivers said. “I’m assuming he’s going to play, but who knows. I don’t know. I can’t get in anyone’s head. Those are questions I can’t answer.”

One would think that Simmons meeting with his head coach for the first time since the 25-year-old requested a trade back in August would provide some clarity.

If Rivers knows the answer (he probably does), he wasn’t ready to let us know.

“I’ve learned one thing, I don’t ever get in another man’s head,” Rivers said. “I really don’t. I actually get on my coaches when they tell me during a game or in a practice, ‘I think what he was thinking …’ And I always say you don’t know what he was thinking. You only know what he did.

“So the fact that [Simmons] was here and he showed up and he conversated … all I know is the action is that he showed up and he was here. I’m gonna let you guys get into what he was thinking and what he was doing. I don’t do that.”

So, Rivers just gave us the green light to speculate on what he himself may be thinking.

Perhaps with the presumed tenuous nature of their relationship Rivers was making sure not to speak for Simmons. Maybe Rivers was choosing his words extra carefully given his Game 7 postgame comments about Simmons were so widely scrutinized.

Or he could’ve just not felt like giving the gaggle of reporters on hand any fodder for Twitter or sports talk radio.

Whatever the case may be, Rivers was being careful not to reveal too much beyond that he “felt good” after the meeting with Simmons. Though it was interesting that he didn’t rule out the possibility of Simmons traveling with the team, and possibly even playing, in the Sixers’ final preseason game Friday in Detroit.

“We’re not ruling that out at all,” Rivers said. “Whether we play him or not, that’s going to depend on what we see this week. He’s coming from behind because he hasn’t been in camp obviously. Having said that, do you rush him and put him on the floor? That’s a whole other subject. That’ll go from our eyes. What we see this week is how we’ll determine everything moving forward.”

You have to give the players a ton of credit. They’ve all (mostly) said the right things during Simmons’ holdout — We’re worried about the guys that are here ... Ben is still a part of our team and we’ll welcome him back.

Two veteran starters conveyed that message yet again Wednesday.

“Nothing has changed since he’s been out,” Danny Green said. “We’ll do the same things if and when he comes back. We’ve been practicing and playing as if he’s been here or going to show up. He’s a part of our group, he’s a part of our team. When and if he shows up, he’ll fit right into the things we did last year. We were very effective at it last year and we expect to do that this year again as well. I guess we’re just waiting on that time to come.”

As far as an apology or explanation or addressing the team in any manner, neither Green nor Seth Curry seemed very interested in that.

“I already know the deal. I know his reasoning,” Curry said. “I don’t feel like he needs to explain anything to me. He’s a grown man. He can do whatever he wants. Just when you step onto that floor, the goal should be to win. We’ll see what happens.”

We’ll see what happens might as well be the slogan for the entire Ben Simmons situation.

Simmons made it to Philadelphia. He’s reported to the team. He’s set to work out in the building.

But will he play another game for the Sixers?

We’ll see what happens.