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Doc Rivers doesn’t hold back in response to latest Simmons report

New Orleans Pelicans v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

There haven’t been many concrete trade rumors regarding Ben Simmons recently. It doesn’t quite feel like there’s been a ton of momentum on that front. But we have had some important updates on the ongoing stalemate. On Tuesday afternoon, ESPN’s ace reporter Ramona Shelburne dropped a report jam packed with context apparently from Ben Simmons’ camp. In that piece, there were a variety of scoops destined to ruffle Sixers fans feathers.

For example, there was this nugget, per Shelburne:

“According to sources close to Simmons, he’s upset that Embiid blamed him for last season’s playoff loss, when Simmons did not blame Embiid for Embiid’s poor showing against the Toronto Raptors in 2019.”

That prompted our own Shamus Clancy to wonder “is Ben Simmons serious?”

There were also a couple updates in the Shelburne bomb, (do we go Shelbomb, BombShelb, how are we doing this?) that named Sixers’ head coach Doc Rivers, specifically.

For example, Shelburne continues:

“According to sources close to Simmons, he’s upset that Embiid seemed to blame him for last season’s playoff loss, when Simmons did not blame Embiid for Embiid’s poor showing in the playoffs against the Toronto Raptors in 2019. He’s frustrated that Rivers didn’t come to see him while he was training in Los Angeles last summer.

Simmons doesn’t dispute that he didn’t reply when Rivers texted and called him several times over the summer asking to see him. But in hindsight, Simmons feels Rivers and the Sixers could’ve done more, like show up at a well-known gym in the San Fernando Valley where he was training.”

And apparently this piece found it’s way to Rivers today, who was willing to comment on the record. Well respected, Sixers veteran beat reporter Tom Moore, with The Bucks County Courier Times, was the one who got Doc to weigh in on the latest.

Per Moore:

“It’s all posturing. That’s why you haven’t heard me – I don’t get involved in all that stuff. I’ll leave that up to the front office and Ben’s camp. I’m staying out of that part. But, listen, some of this stuff I laugh at and I feel bad. I think Ben’s a good kid. I want Ben to do well.”

In the full piece which is well worth a read, Rivers refers to the many media sessions he spent singing Simmons praises or defending him from questions which touched upon the issue of Simmons development as a shooter and/or scorer. Calling the latest mere “posturing” by Simmons camp hints at Rivers’ awareness that plenty of the noise and reports may serve Simmons’ own purpose of forcing a team who hasn’t wanted to trade him to concede. The Feb. 10 NBA Trade Deadline is just days away now.

Per Moore:

“We need people to tell us the truth,” Rivers said. “Unfortunately as a coach in the NBA, I have to do it a lot. I’ve accepted it as a coach over the years. Some handle it well (and) some don’t.”

On the one hand, it’s easy to relate to Rivers’ apparent frustration. He’s making the point that he was honest with Simmons, like he’s honest with all of his players. But that not all of his guys can handle the sometimes unpleasant truth. Maybe that’s the case here with Simmons and Rivers wants us to all to know it.

On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if Doc’s boss Sixers President Daryl Morey might have preferred Doc just not weigh in on this at all. If we can be sure the posturing coming from Simmons camp is aimed at getting a trade, it’s less clear to me how Rivers’ public position here benefits the Sixers. If they want to trade Simmons, does Doc’s comments today help them vye for leverage somehow? Or could the person on the phone with Morey now say “man, it sounds like your head coach is pretty frustrated, I don’t want my coach to feel this way, why don’t you send us another first round pick for our troubles?” Daryl Morey recently said a trade is “less likely than likely” to take place. If the Sixers want to convince Simmons to play again this year, do Rivers’ comments help that cause?

I suppose it simply feels good to vent sometimes in an understandably frustrating stalemate. The Sixers, even without Simmons are red hot, having won 15 of 18 games. And Doc deserves plenty of credit there, to be sure. But like the time Doc compared Simmons’ camp to election-deniers I don’t yet see the strategic benefit here. Call me old fashioned but if you felt Simmons camp is blatantly posturing, maybe skip nibbling the bait.