Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers is garnering strong reactions on Twitter after his comments Wednesday morning, responding to whether or not star guard Ben Simmons will remain in a 76ers’ uniform as the new NBA season tips-off next month.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Simmons will not report to 76ers camp next week and that he does not intend to play another game with the team, though still under contract.
Rivers appeared on ESPN’s First Take Wednesday morning and responded to Woj’s report, and attempted to clarify his own stance on Simmons and his importance to the 76ers’ organization.
“I’ve always defended him [Ben Simmons]. I just love how he plays,” Rivers told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. “I love a lot of the things that he does for our team. Unfortunately, we focus so much on his offense and we don’t focus on a lot of the other things he does. Ben has been under a lot of pressure in Philadelphia, we know that.”
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“Having said that, we were one game away from the Eastern [Conference] Finals last year. No one picked us to be where we were at. And so, I look at last year as the first step, not the last step. But we have to go through all this to get him back. There’s no doubt about that. ”
Rivers also took exception when Stephen A. reminded him of his comments following the 76ers Game 7 loss in June to the Atlanta Hawks, where Rivers expressed uncertainty when asked whether or not he believes Simmons is the point guard of the future for a championship franchise. Rivers criticized the way his comments were reported, saying:
“I want to correct that. I would love you guys to play what I said because… I never said what was reported. The question was asked about Ben. It was the first question after we just lost Game 7. My answer was, ‘I’m not answering any of that stuff right now, guys. I don’t even know how to answer that.’ That had nothing to do with Ben. I was basically saying, ‘I’m not answering that crap’."
“What disappointed me,” Rivers continued. “It was out there being portrayed as I don’t think we can win with Ben, and I do-- I told Ben that the next day. What really bothered me is the next day I went on and said, ‘Guys, y’all knew exactly what I was talking about.’ And no one heard it. They just kept running their narratives. I’ve been in sports a long time and I’m not misrepresented very often, but I was. But it is what it is. Ben knows, Rich [Paul] knows, and I know.”
Sure, Rivers' comments may have been misinterpreted by the media. But like Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice points out, even Rivers wasn’t completely accurate in how that post-game presser transpired.
Doc Rivers and the Philadelphia 76ers are set to begin training camp next week.
Check out the clip from ESPN's First Take below.