Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers has insisted his controversial comments “had nothing” to do with Ben Simmons’ ugly exit from the franchise.
Instead, Rivers hinted it was due to a build-up of issues between Simmons and Sixers star Joel Embiid that eventually forced the star guard to the Brooklyn Nets.
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After the Sixers’ Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, in which Simmons struggled badly on the offensive side of the ball, Rivers was asked if the Australian could be the point guard of a championship team.
Rivers replied: “I don’t know the answer to that.”
It sent the rumour mill into overdrive as Simmons demanded a trade and missed out on Philly’s training camp to prove he wanted out of the city, although he eventually got his wish in February as he moved to the Brooklyn Nets.
Despite Rivers’ comments being an easy marker for fans to point to as the moment everything turned south, the coach was adamant it was not the case.
“That one comment had nothing to do with why Ben wanted to leave,” Rivers told The VC Show with Vince Carter.
“Alright? Let me just say that.”
Rivers was coy as to the real reasons behind why Simmons was so desperate to get out, but hinted that the deteriorating relationship between the star and Embiid was behind it all.
“It was a lot of things as Ben told me, and publicly now, that happened long before I got there,” Rivers said.
“What frustrated me was that I still think it shouldn’t have been enough to want to leave. I just didn’t and I told Ben that. I kept telling him that. This is not why you leave a team. You work these things out.
“They didn’t get worked out and so yeah, we’ve had one talk. Not a long, long talk, but we did have one good talk.
While Rivers is still upset that he couldn’t help Embiid and Simmons patch things over so the two would remain teammates, he still wished the latter well.
“I want the kid to do well,” Rivers said.
“I don’t have any, like, bad feelings about him. He didn’t do anything wrong to me.
“Now, I want to kick all their butts when they’re not on my team. That’s the competitive side of me, but as a human being, I think we all should want Ben and all these guys to do well.”