NBA: Doc Rivers 'bullish' on Ben Simmons, vows summer shooting skills plan

Field Level Media via Reuters

Posted at Jun 22 2021 10:58 AM


A post shared by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons)

On Sunday night, Ben Simmons took accountability for his poor offensive performance in the Philadelphia 76ers' Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Atlanta Hawks.

His own coach, Doc Rivers, and teammate Joel Embiid also referenced Simmons' offensive passivity when breaking down the shocking loss for the top-seeded Sixers.

A day later, Rivers backtracked a bit and showed faith in his point guard, telling media members that he hasn't given up on Simmons and that the team has a summer plan to address the All-Star's shooting struggles.

"I believe, without going into detail with what we're doing, I believe we know what the right work is, and the right type of work, and the right way to do it," Rivers said about the summer plan for Simmons.

"You can do the work all the time. But if it's not done in the right way and the right type of work, you may not improve. After being here for a year, I really do believe we've identified what and how, and now we have to do the do part. We have to work to do it. It's not going to be an easy job. But it's definitely a job that Ben can do."

Simmons attempted only one shot in the fourth quarter in the final six games of the series -- a total of 43 minutes played -- and passed up a certain game-tying layup with 3:30 left in the fourth quarter of Sunday's Game 7 loss.

"Offensively, I wasn't there. I didn't do enough for my teammates," Simmons said Sunday night. "There's a lot of things that I need to work on."

Simmons said he felt a defender -- Danilo Gallinari -- was bearing down on him from behind and might've blocked a shot or sent him to the free-throw line. Simmons shot 15-for-45 (33 percent) from the line against Atlanta.

He instead found a cutting Matisse Thybulle, who was fouled and made 1 of 2 free throws. The Hawks scored the next five points.

"Man, I will be honest. I thought the turning point was, you know, when we, I don't know how to say it, but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw and we missed the other and they came down and scored," 76ers center Joel Embiid said.

Following the loss Sunday, Rivers didn't seem to back Simmons when asked if Philadelphia could win a championship with Simmons at point guard.

"I don't know that question or the answer to that right now," Rivers said. "So I don't know the answer to that."

Less than 24 hours later, Rivers said he remained "positive in Ben."

"I'm very bullish on Ben still," Rivers added. "But there's work -- and Ben will be willing to do it. And that's the key.

"Sometimes you have to go through stuff to see it and be honest with it. Obviously what Ben just went through, I can't imagine that, because he has so much greatness around him in all the things that he does. There's areas that he can fix quickly in my opinion and get better, that can take him to another level."

Whether Simmons has a future in Philadelphia appears to be open to great debate. He reportedly was discussed in trade talks with the Houston Rockets for James Harden earlier this season, but Harden was dealt to the Brooklyn Nets.

Simmons said he's going to block out the noise and work on what he can control. The 25-year-old has $140.4 million remaining over the final four years of his existing contract.

Simmons had 13 assists Sunday and was ever-present defensively on Hawks All-Star Trae Young, who shot 5 of 23 in Game 7.

"The first thing I'm going to do is clear my mind and get my mental right," he said. "You got to be mentally tough. You can't take games for granted. Especially in the playoffs. Every game matters. Every possession matters."

ESPN also reported Monday that Simmons likely will not play in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics for his native Australia in order to focus on skills development.