The 76ers and Rich Paul, the agent for Ben Simmons, have begun meeting about Simmons’ future, according to a report by ESPN.
An NBA source confirmed to The Inquirer that a meeting has indeed taken place among president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, general manager Elton Brand, and Paul, the founder of Klutch Sports Group.
The source also confirmed what the report stated, that the Sixers are committed to keeping Simmons.
This falls in line with what coach Doc Rivers said in a press conference on Monday. Rivers said he continued to have faith in Simmons and that the highly scrutinized star will turn it around, if he does the right off-season work.
“I’m positive in Ben. I’m very bullish in Ben still, but there is work, and Ben will be willing to do it,” Rivers said.
Of course, this is the type of story that could change at any time, especially since the offseason for the Sixers has just begun soon after their 103-96 Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.
The two sides, according to the source, are expected to continue their dialogue.
Simmons just completed the first season of a five-year, $177.2 million contract.
What is working in Simmons’ favor is that he won’t turn 25 until next month. He is already a three-time All-Star selection and this season earned his second straight first-team NBA All-Defensive selection.
On the other hand, his offensive meltdown in the playoffs is something that the Sixers and Simmons have to feel comfortable that it is something he can overcome.
In the seven-game Eastern Conference semifinal loss to the Hawks, Simmons averaged 9.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists, and 2.3 turnovers.
His foul shooting fell apart. After shooting 10-for-28 (35.7%) in the first-round series win over Washington, he shot 15-for-45 (33.3%) against the Hawks. Overall, in the 12 playoff games, he shot just 34.2% (25-for-73) from the foul line.
Simmons was not aggressive offensively, attempting just three fourth-quarter shots in the Hawks series, none in the final four games.
While Simmons has never been a good foul shooter, especially for a point guard, this past playoff he was way below his average. As a matter of fact, he was historically low. He put together the worst free-throw percentage in NBA playoff history for a player with at least 70 attempts, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.
In four playoff series before this year, Simmons shot 64-for-98 (65.3%) from the foul line. During his four regular seasons, he is a career 59.7% foul shooter.
After the Atlanta series, Rivers admitted what everybody else could see: Simmons’ poor free-throw shooting affected his game.
Rivers suggested that if Simmons becomes a better and more confident foul shooter, the other parts of his game will follow.
In his postgame interview following the Game 7 loss, Simmons said he would like to remain in Philadelphia.
“I love being in Philly, I love this organization,” Simmons said. “The fans are great, great people. I had a bad series and I expect that [criticism]; it’s Philly.”
The criticism has been constant. The best advice for Simmons is to stay away from social media and talk radio.