On the day before the 76ers open their NBA season on Wednesday against the visiting Washington Wizards, their two All-Stars discussed trade rumors and a report on the team’s coaching search.
After reports circulated last week that the Sixers made Ben Simmons available in a possible trade for Houston Rockets eight-time All-Star guard James Harden, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey told The Athletic, “We are not trading Ben Simmons. He is an important part of our future.”
First-year Sixers coach Doc Rivers thought enough about the situation that he called Simmons after the story appeared.
Rivers didn’t divulge details of the conversation. Simmons said that “none of this started from us,” in referring to the rumors.
Simmons had not been made available to comment until after Tuesday’s practice. He was asked if it has been unsettling to hear these rumors as the season is about to begin. Simmons didn’t dodge the question.
“No. I come in every day. I take it a day at a time. I am with my teammates,” he said. “Every day I wake up, every time I have a Sixers uniform on, I am representing the Sixers. So my mentality never changes. I’m here to win a championship. That goal is never going to change.”
He then discussed rumors in general.
“I know things are always going to be said in the media and rumors and things like that, but my goal is to come in every day and get better and help the team that I’m on win a championship,” Simmons said.
Later in the media session, three-time All-Star center Joel Embiid was asked if he felt the rumors were affecting Simmons.
“We are not focused on that,” Embiid said. “We focus on how we get better as a team.”
Embiid said this is a season of high hopes following one in which the Sixers went 43-30 and were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics.
“We got a good opportunity to go out and compete for the whole thing, and that is what we are focused on,” Embiid said. “All the outside noise, we can’t control it. You’ve got to control whatever you can.”
Embiid was later asked about more outside noise, a story by The Athletic that said he was had been opposed to the prospective hiring of Ty Lue, who had been a candidate for the Sixers job before Rivers became available.
According to The Athletic, Lue is close to Rich Paul, who represents Simmons. The Athletic reported that Embiid opposed Lue for X’s-and-O’s reasons and for the optics of Simmons’ “guy” getting the job. Lue eventually replaced Rivers as the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Embiid was asked to comment on the story.
“I am not the GM. I am not in the front office, so that has nothing to do with me,” Embiid said. “And I’ve always told them they got to do whatever is best for the team. So if they thought Doc was the right coach for us, then I trust that. If any of the other candidates were not the right choice for us, then I trust that also.”
Embiid says he is sure that the front office did its due diligence in considering the candidates.
“That is not something I can control. I am not in the front office. I’m just a player,” he said.
He then talked about the candidates for the job. Before Rivers became available after surprisingly being fired by the Clippers, Lue and former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni were considered the main candidates.
“We had a lot of great candidates. All of them are great,” Embiid said. “Ty has won a championship. I think, we were looking at ... Mike D’Antoni, who was an assistant coach with us [in 2015-16]. And then Doc came in the picture, so I thought the choice they made, you could have gone either way. Either of them would have been great for this team.”