Doc Rivers wants to change Ben Simmons’ mind: ‘We’re not gonna give up’

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Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers spoke about the Ben Simmons situation on Wednesday, for the first time since Simmons reportedly said he wouldn’t report to Sixers training camp and intends to never play for the team ever again.

Rivers appeared on ESPN’s “First Take” with Stephen A. Smith on Wednesday, and the two had a lively discussion about the situation. If you’re familiar with Doc at all, you know that there isn’t an ounce of surrender in him. He wants Simmons back and he’s not ready to throw in the towel.

Rivers focused on the positive

Rivers confirmed that Simmons had met with the Sixers and told them in person that he wanted out. But while Simmons might consider this the last step, to Rivers it’s just the first step in a longer conversation. He focused on the number of times a player has wanted out but ended up coming back and being successful — more than the public is even aware of.

On ESPN’s Keyshawn, JWill, and Max radio show, Rivers was even more positive about Simmons staying despite his clearly stated desire to leave: “Well, I hope we can change that thought. That’s part of our job.”

Rivers continued to emphasize the importance of patience and communication during his interview with Smith.

When Smith asked Rivers what his expectations are for Simmons this season (as opposed to his hopes), Rivers’ answer was simple: “To get him back.” If Simmons doesn’t come back, Rivers said he doesn’t know what they’d do, but they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it.

Rivers tries to clarify Simmons championship comment

Smith also asked Rivers about his now infamous comments about whether Simmons could be a point guard on a championship team. PhillyVoice’s Kyle Neubeck transcribed the full exchange between Smith and Rivers, in which Rivers essentially tries to retrofit his previous answer to sound better in context.

Neubeck also provided the exact transcript of the question Rivers was asked during that fateful postgame media session, as well as his answer.

When you read that in context, it seems pretty clear that Rivers meant to say exactly what he said about Simmons. It’s hard to blame him for trying to soft soap it a little, though. Rivers was extremely raw after the Sixers’ Game 7 loss, and what he said reflected that. In retrospect, he likely regretted being that direct, and he’s been trying to fix it ever since. Most importantly, Rivers said that Simmons knows what he actually meant, and so does his agent Rich Paul.

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