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Doc Rivers: Post Game 7 comments in 2021 not what drove Ben Simmons out of Philly

Brooklyn Nets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

In an interview on ESPN’s “The VC Show with Vince Carter” Sixers Coach Doc Rivers said that he and Ben Simmons had a good talk after the trade that sent the prodigal point guard to Brooklyn. Rivers also said that he doesn’t believe his controversial comment after Game 7 of the Sixers-Hawks series in 2021 had anything to do with Simmons holdout last season.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Rivers famously told reporters when asked if Simmons could be the point guard of a championship team.

“Obviously, he struggled from the free-throw line, and that became a factor in this series,” Rivers continued. “There’s no doubt about that. I still believe in him, but we have work to do. We’re going to have to get in the gym, put a lot of work in, and go forward.”

Rivers comment was one of two after the game cited by many in the NBA community as the straw that finally broke the relationship between player and franchise.

Joel Embiid was far more critical without naming Simmons in discussing how the momentum shifted when Simmons passed up an open layup that would have tied the game at 88:

“I’ll be honest, I thought the turning point was when we—I don’t know how to say it—but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw,” Embiid said that night in June 2021.

On Tuesday, Rivers told VC the issue that drove Simmons out of Philadelphia had nothing to do with his comments and had everything to do with a build-up of grievances between the player and the franchise. He did not provide details but seemed to suggest the relationship between Simmons and Embiid were at the center of things.

“That one comment thing had nothing to do with why Ben wanted to leave,” Rivers said. “Alright? Let me just say that. It was a lot of things as Ben told me — and publicly now — that happened long before I got there. 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 want to 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.”

Rivers said Simmons initiated the talk which he said he appreciated. Simmons indeed said he had made to calls to others in the Sixer organization after the February trade ... but not Embiid.

“Ben called me afterwards, which I thought was great and we had a good talk, but the point was, he was already leaving and I really believe, even though 99 percent of the people didn’t, that that we could make this work with Ben and Jo and the team because I’m built that way. That’s what coaches have to do.”

Rivers said he hopes Simmons will do well in Brooklyn.

“I want the kid to do well. I don’t have any, like, bad feelings about him. He didn’t do anything wrong to me. I just want most guys do, I really do. 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.”

Simmons, of course, has been the face of the Nets franchise of late with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s status still unsettled. He was at the New York Liberty game Tuesday night at Barclays Center and last week was the lead Nets greeter when F.C. Barcelona dropped by HSS Training Center as part of a promotional tour.