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Sixers coach Doc Rivers’ stance on Ben Simmons: ‘We want him back’

The Sixers coach tells Stephen A. Smith on First Take that he believes Philadelphia can win with Simmons, felt misrepresented by postgame comments following Game 7 loss to Hawks.

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers speaks with Ben Simmons during action against the Atlanta Hawks at Wells Fargo Center on April 28, 2021 in Philadelphia.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers speaks with Ben Simmons during action against the Atlanta Hawks at Wells Fargo Center on April 28, 2021 in Philadelphia.Read moreTim Nwachukwu / MCT

Can the rift between Ben Simmons and the Sixers be repaired? Doc Rivers is not ruling it out.

The Sixers coach said Wednesday on ESPN’s First Take that the team “would love to get Ben back and if we can.”

The Inquirer reported Aug. 31 that in a meeting in Los Angeles, Simmons told the team’s brass that he no longer wants to be a Sixer and will not report to training camp, which starts next week.

“There’s been so many times that this has happened that hasn’t been reported, and the guy comes back,” Rivers said. “Listen, we’re gonna go through it. We’re gonna always do what’s best for the team. But I can tell you up front, we would love to get Ben back and, if we can, we’re gonna try to do that. Ben has a long contract, so it’s in our hands, and we want him back.”

Rivers acknowledged that a recent conversation between Simmons and the Sixers’ brass occurred, during which Simmons “gave his reasons [for wanting out of Philadelphia], which we obviously didn’t agree with.”

Rivers also pushed back on how his postgame comments about Simmons following Philly’s Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals were portrayed.

The Inquirer’s David Murphy asked, “Do you think Ben Simmons can be still be a point guard for a championship team like the one you guys want to become?” Rivers responded, “Yeah, David, I don’t know the answer to that right now. So, I don’t know the answer to that.”

On Wednesday, Rivers said: “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 about Ben. I was basically saying, ‘I’m not answering that crap, those questions.’

“What disappointed me, and I don’t do this ‘[blame the] media’ thing very often, you never see me do that. It was being portrayed that I was out there saying I don’t think we can win with Ben, and I do. I told Ben that the next day. What really disappointed me was, the next day, I went on and said, ‘Guys, you all know exactly what I was talking about,’ and no one heard it. They just kept running their narratives.

“You know, I’ve been in sports a long time and I’m not misrepresented very often, but in that case I was. But it is what it is. Ben knows, Rich [Paul, Simmons’ agent] knows, and I know.”