Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers is being put through the wringer over the Ben Simmons trade situation. Rivers is learning firsthand why coach-speak exists, and why most coaches tend to adhere to this terminology when addressing the on-court product, whether positive or negative.
As a veteran coach and former NBA player, Rivers should have known better than to so bluntly answer a question about whether Simmons could be the starting point guard for a championship team. The credit Rivers gave Simmons for his defensive work on Trey Young in the Atlanta Hawks series was thrown out of the window once he answered that question.
Star center Joel Embiid didn’t help matters, either, in his time with the media following the Game 7 meltdown against Atlanta. All he did was roll forward then proceed to back the bus right over Simmons. What shocks me is that anyone would react with surprise to how Simmons has responded over the summer. His trade demand doesn’t shock me, and neither does Ben claiming he’s willing to sit out training camp.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, a group of Sixers players were set to visit Simmons in Los Angeles, but were told not to even bother making the trip. The fact that Simmons won’t even sit down and meet with teammates speaks volumes. The public slandering by Doc and Joel was the final straw for Ben, it seems.
What makes this situation even more interesting and volatile is Simmons’ contract status. He has four years remaining on his current contract with Philly and is owed more than $146 million. It may take some time for the Sixers to get a deal done for Simmons if they decide to give in. First, it seemed like the team wouldn’t give way, then reports came out that they were shopping Simmons, and now it seems we’ve hit the “baby come back” part of the song.
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The relationship between Simmons and the organization is so bad that Rivers was forced to backtrack on his comments about Ben following their playoff elimination. Following this whole dramatic ordeal makes me feel like the coach speak will rise dramatically as a result. Not just from the likes of Rivers but all over professional sports. Everyone loves honesty until it bites ‘em in the ass.
In this age of social media and the generation of athletes growing up with it, you’ve got to be very careful about what you say. You can’t call out every player publicly and expect it to motivate them. Not in today’s NBA. Most of the players entering the NBA over the past 15 years aren’t accustomed to being criticized. An AAU, high school, or college coach wouldn’t dare criticize their star player publicly after a tough loss. What Doc said may not have been that harsh. But it doesn’t matter how you, me, or even Doc Rivers perceives his statement. Ben’s opinion is the only one that matters here. And he is upset, hurt and I’m sure he even feels betrayed by Rivers.
Simmons’ relationship with Embiid is well documented, so I’m sure Ben wasn’t surprised at all by the ripping from his teammate. Rivers’ honesty is refreshing, since coaches are often condemned for not saying anything when speaking to the media. This time Doc let it all hang out. I’m sure Rivers doesn’t feel like he said anything out of pocket, even if Simmons took it that way.
We haven’t heard the last of this saga, and I am waiting for camps to open over the next couple of days to see if Simmons holds true to his word. Rivers and the Sixers can do all the begging they want, I don’t think it will affect Simmons and his camp concerning where they stand on the matter. Doc, this is your doing, and all the private sit downs in the world won’t be enough to smooth this one over. I think we’ve seen the last of Ben Simmons in a 76ers jersey, whether he plays this year or sits out waiting to be traded.