CAMDEN, N.J. — It feels like the next dull moment with the Sixers will be the first one.
On a day Ben Simmons was supposed to speak with reporters for the first time since the Philadelphia 76ers’ Game 7 loss to the Hawks — and subsequently requesting a trade — he did not. Instead of potentially airing his grievances and setting the record straight, Simmons on Tuesday was thrown out of practice by head coach Doc Rivers.
The Sixers announced that Simmons would be suspended one game for “conduct detrimental to the team,” meaning the three-time All-Star will not play in the season opener in New Orleans Wednesday.
“I just thought he was a distraction today,” Rivers said. “I didn’t think he wanted to do what everybody else was doing. It was early. It wasn’t a big deal. I just told him he should leave then, and we went on with practice.”
Rivers was pressed on the incident that led to Simmons being thrown out of practice and what their conversation was like when it happened.
He was mum on both.
“That’s none of your business,” Rivers said. “That’s why practice is closed, honestly. Not being a jerk, but there’s things you need to know and there’s things you don’t.”
Rivers was mostly diplomatic, saying that he’d not only welcome Simmons back at practice Thursday, but that he expects the three-time All-Star to be here. Rivers went on to say that he doesn’t believe that the situation is a distraction and that team will welcome Simmons back if he buys in.
Joel Embiid was … much less diplomatic.
“At this point, I don’t care about that man, honestly,” Embiid said of Simmons. “He does whatever he wants. That’s not my job. That’s [the front office’s job]. I’m only focused on trying to make the team better, win some games, play hard every night, try to lead the guys that are here, and I’m sure they feel the same way. Our chemistry has been excellent, despite everything else that happened the last few months. So, like I said, I don’t really care.”
You can’t blame Embiid for growing weary of the constant Simmons questions, especially when Embiid has been implicated as a reason for Simmons wanting out — whether it was the MVP candidate’s comments after Game 7 or that the team (rightfully) has chosen to build its offense around arguably the best big man in basketball.
Asked if he’s spoken with Simmons since the fifth-year guard’s return to the team, Embiid said, “I’m too honest. I’ll answer that question: no.”
When asked if he’d like to talk with Simmons, he reiterated his previous statements.
“I [wouldn’t] mind,” Embiid said. “I’m trying to win. And to win, you got to have that relationship with all my teammates. But at the end of the day, our job is not to babysit somebody. We’re here, we get paid to focus on the court, go out, play hard, win some games. That’s what we get paid for. We don’t get paid to come out here and try and babysit somebody. That’s not our job, and I’m sure my teammates feel that way.”
Rivers admitted to being surprised by Simmons’ actions Tuesday. The head coach said this wasn’t something that had been building over the past couple days while Simmons participated in previous practices.
But with the copious amounts of reporters and an onslaught of questions about the situation, why does Rivers want Simmons joining a team he believes has such excellent chemistry?
“Because he’s a good player. He can help us,” Rivers said. “Listen, the one thing I know about players is our players will welcome anyone back in that wants to be in. I also know that players will not welcome anyone that doesn’t want to be in. And so when that time comes, I guarantee you it won’t be a hard thing to do. That I know.”
And what we all know is there is never a freaking dull moment around here.