To open Monday’s Media Day, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey conducted a joint presser, which largely centered on Ben Simmons and his absence from the organization.
Both Rivers and Morey reiterated they would like to see Simmons back as a member of the team. Morey expressed “a lot of optimism” about the ability to repair disconnect between Simmons and the team. He likened the situation to Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who was involved in rumors about his reported discontent much of the NFL off-season, but remained a Packer nonetheless and has his team atop the NFC North.
Morey said he last met with Simmons 6-7 weeks ago and has been in communication with “his representation” more recently. When asked if there’s any sense that Simmons could return to the team “at some point,” Morey did not affirm or refute that inquiry.
“Ben’s a great player,” Morey said. “We expect him back. We expect him to be a 76er.”
Morey declined to discuss the specifics of any potential fines levied against Simmons as a result of his holdout, but said “it’s pretty, very clearly spelled out in the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) and his contract what happens.”
Morey said Simmons’ representatives approached the front office shortly after the season concluded asking for a trade. But at that time, the team was not looking to trade him and said he “only has one focus, which is to do what gives us the best chance to win a championship.”
“Ben is a very good player, a big part of this team,” Morey said. “We’re disappointed he’s not here.”
None of these soundbites should surprise anyone. Although the overwhelming majority of reports indicate the Sixers are indeed aiming to trade Simmons, they are better with their All-Star point guard than without anyone in place of him and an enticing deal has not surfaced to the point.
Rivers said they’ll miss his control of the pace offensively, ability to creates 3s for others and his defensive versatility. Simultaneously, he again emphasized the preference for Simmons to improve his free throw shooting more so than the outside jumper, citing the varying ways to win basketball games and Hall of Famers such as Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman.
Given Saturday’s report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania that Simmons advised his teammates not to fly out to Los Angeles and pitch him on the merits of returning to Philadelphia, it seems quite unlikely that Rivers’ and Morey’s hopes materialize. In the meantime, Rivers — who acknowledged it’s a concern that Simmons’ absence could become a distraction — says he knows who will fill the void at point, though declined to divulge specifics on the matter.
“I think you’ll figure that out. I don’t think that’s that hard, really, on that one,” Rivers said. “For me, the biggest thing is not who starts. It’s now that takes away another guard and the second unit is my biggest issue for me because that takes us down one point guard.”