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76ers coach Doc Rivers on Ben Simmons: ‘I want him to do well. It’s just the excuses and all that stuff’

Ben Simmons and 76ers coach Doc Rivers

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 14: Head coach Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers talks to Ben Simmons #25 against the Brooklyn Nets at the Wells Fargo Center on April 14, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Nets 123-117. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

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Doc Rivers so frequently and emphatically praised Ben Simmons last season, it seemed the 76ers coach was running a deliberate campaign to boost Simmons’ confidence.

If so, it didn’t work.

Simmons crumbled in Philadelphia’s playoff loss to the Hawks. Asked afterward whether Simmons could be the point guard on a championship team, a frustrated Rivers said he didn’t know. That only made matters worse. Simmons requested a trade. He has not played this season, citing his mental health.

How fragile did the situation become? Simmons reportedly ignored Rivers’ calls and texts over the summer… then became frustrated the 76ers coach didn’t visit him anyway.

Rivers, via Tom Moore of the Courier Times:

“I always have supported Ben,” Rivers said. “I want him to do well. It’s just the excuses and all that stuff. One of the things I tell all my players is that respect is a two-way street, especially these young guys. You can’t expect to ignore us or not listen and then want us to do something different to you. You have to respect each other to be successful in life.”
“We need people to tell us the truth,” Rivers said. “Unfortunately as a coach in the NBA, I have to do it a lot. I’ve accepted it as a coach over the years. Some handle it well (and) some don’t. Sometimes I don’t deliver it well, even though I try. I’m not perfect, either.

This sounds different than when Rivers, likely in vain, was trying to coax Simmons into playing again for the 76ers. That ship has probably sailed.

Maybe Simmons needs to hear hard truths. But he was pandered to for so long. Rivers’ indirect end-of-season criticism probably hit Simmons even harder than it would have otherwise.

Again, it really seems like the toothpaste is out of the tube with Simmons in Philadelphia.