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Doc Rivers considers Ben Simmons domino effects, including changes to the Sixers’ starting lineup and defensive scheme

Without the 6-foot-10 Simmons, Philly's starting backcourt — Seth Curry and Tyrese Maxey — will be a lot smaller than last season.

Sixers head coach, Doc Rivers, center, is photographed during the first day of training camp practice at the Seventy Sixers Practice Facility in Camden, N.J.
Sixers head coach, Doc Rivers, center, is photographed during the first day of training camp practice at the Seventy Sixers Practice Facility in Camden, N.J.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

Ben Simmons’ absence could impact the 76ers’ starting lineup.

A season ago, the Sixers rolled out small forward Danny Green, power forward Tobias Harris, center Joel Embiid, shooting guard Seth Curry, and Simmons at point guard. But Tyrese Maxey was the starting point guard the first two days of this season’s training camp, with Simmons remaining a no-show.

Without the 6-foot-10 Simmons, the starting backcourt — Curry (6-2) and Maxey (6-2) — will be a lot smaller than last season. Coach Doc Rivers said following Wednesday’s practice that he’ll most likely have to rotate different players into the lineup based on matchups.

“We definitely have to make sure we have a defender with that starting group,” Rivers said, “if that’s Matisse [Thybulle]. Danny can do it.”

The Sixers are considering a big starting lineup at times with Harris sliding to small forward and Georges Niang at power forward.

“So there’s options there,” Rivers said. “We don’t know if any of them work yet. We haven’t seen them. So that’s because of not having him, those are things we have to do for sure.”

Simmons’ absence could also impact the Sixers’ ability to go small on defense, as he played the team’s small-ball center..

“Whenever I think of that ... I think you mean take Joel off the floor?” Rivers said of possible small-ball units. “Maybe with the second unit you can do it some. But overall, I think we are going to stay big, and at times, we will be ready to play small ball for sure.”

That lineup was more doable with Simmons, but he no longer intends to play for the Sixers and has been a no-show at media day and the first two formal practices and remains unlikely to return to the team.

» READ MORE: Joel Embiid will be expected to do more on defense for the Sixers with Ben Simmons set to leave town

Sixers focus on end-of-game offense

For the second straight day, the Sixers ended practice with a motion offense that featured dribble handoffs and cuts to the basket.

It’s all by design. Cutting is a big part of Rivers’ offense. He also wants his squad to focus on end-of-game strategy during training camp.

“Our record says we won a lot of close games,” Rivers said. “I didn’t think under 40 seconds, we necessarily got the shots we wanted every time. So we’re really working on that this year. We want to make sure we get the shots we want every single time down the stretch.”

Overall, the coach said it was a great practice, better than the initial practice at training camp.

His players were more under control, had better execution, made extra passes, and had fewer turnovers, Rivers said.

Shake Milton shines with second unit

Shake Milton had a great practice on the second day of training camp, according to Rivers.

“You can tell he’s put in a lot of work in at the position,” Rivers said. “Where last year, honestly, he came into the year and had no idea that he’d be a point guard.

“So he’s been fantastic for us. The first group kind of showed up. It’s good to see them, they played great.”

Milton had a lot of command in leading the second group. The former combo guard said his transformation is a work in progress.

“It’s not like it’s a finished thing,” he said. “I’m constantly learning every day. I just try to take a little bit from everybody I see.

“Joel commands the team. Tobias uses his voice as a leader. I kind of incorporate my own thing. It’s been fun.”

» READ MORE: Joel Embiid, Doc Rivers deny criticisms of Sixers holdout Ben Simmons, make things worse

Embiid returns in great shape

Embiid’s slimmed-down presence is noticeable. He appears to be in the best shape of his Sixers career, and is much smaller than last season’s listed weight of 280 pounds.

“He’s in great shape,” Rivers said. “He’s in much better shape, which is great because last year he took a big step in conditioning. And this year, he comes in and he’s in even better shape.”