The 76ers-Ben Simmons saga is the soap opera you didn’t realize you needed.
On ESPN’s “First Take” on Wednesday, Philadelphia’s head coach, Doc Rivers, made one thing clear about the team’s estranged star point guard: “We want him back.”
Despite the fact that Simmons is still on the roster and has four years remaining on his $177 million max contract, the 25-year-old is said to have no desire to play for the Sixers.
According to reports on Tuesday, Simmons will not report to training camp next week and will never play in a Sixers uniform again.
On “First Take,” Rivers confirmed that Simmons met with the Sixers’ front office, including himself, to inform them of his desire to be traded.
“Yeah, I mean it was a good conversation and he gave us reasons which we obviously didn’t agree with,” Rivers said.
“We’re always going to do what’s best for the team, but I can tell you up front, we’d love to get Ben back and if we can’t we’re going to try to do that. Ben has a long contract. It’s in our hands and we want him back.”
Rivers went on to say that communication will be used to try to mend the Sixers’ broken relationship. Simmons was said to have “cut off communication” with most of the Sixers organization in early August, and that any communications were handled by his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports.
“We’re going to try [to get him back] and if it doesn’t work, it’s not going to be for us not trying to get it right,” Rivers said.
Simmons and the Sixers have been at odds since June, when the All-Star point guard had a historically poor playoff performance, particularly on offense and at the free-throw line.
Rivers was chastised after his response to a reporter’s question after Philadelphia’s Game 7 loss to Atlanta in June: “Do you think Ben Simmons can still be a point guard for a championship team like the one you guys want to become?”
“Yeah, I don’t know that question or the answer to that right now,” Rivers said at the time. His response gave the impression that he didn’t think the Sixers could win a championship with Simmons.
While on “First Take,” Rivers “wanted to correct” the situation, and said “we can win a title with Ben Simmons. I just believe that.”
He explained, “The question was asked about Ben [and] it was the first question after we lost Game 7. That had nothing to do with Ben, I said I’m not answering that crap. What disappointed me, was being portrayed that I said I don’t think we can win with Ben.”
Simmons shot 34.2 percent from the free-throw line in the postseason. Simmons only attempted three shots in the fourth quarter of the seven-game series against Atlanta in the second round, none of which came in the series’ final four games.
The Sixers hired a free-throw coach and a shooting coach to work with Simmons, according to Rivers.
“It’s about free throws. We need to improve on that… and we want to get him in the gym and get better at the free throw line,” Rivers said.