It’s possible that a seismic event (by sporting standards) could occur within the next month ... and yet there's no indication anything meaningful has changed.
That, in essence, is the status of Ben Simmons’ position with the Sixers. Any Simmons report or rumor draws eyes, though, as Sixers head coach Doc Rivers is fully aware.
Rivers was relatively open to discussing Simmons and the Feb. 10 trade deadline in general before the team's Wednesday night loss to the Hornets. His comments came in the context of a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Simmons’ agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, met Wednesday with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand. Wojnarowski reported both sides’ stances are “unchanged,” which Rivers seemed to confirm.
“I don’t know,” Rivers said when asked if Simmons was any closer to returning to the Sixers. “I don’t think so, but I don’t even know the answer. He does come to the (practice) facility, but I don’t know what that means right now. Hopefully we’ll have an answer sooner or later.”
Simmons hasn’t played during the 2021-22 season after requesting a trade following the Sixers’ second-round playoff series loss to the Hawks. He told the team in October he was not mentally ready to play and has been listed as out for personal reasons.
Rivers acknowledged it is sometimes necessary to address trade rumors with his team.
“It depends daily,” he said, “which false rumor is out there each day — and I’m half-joking about that — probably not (joking), really. It’s just a different generation and way than it was even 10 years ago. Stories break.
“The thing from a coaching standpoint that I’ve never liked — and it happens all the time now — is someone will create a story, meaning they’ll suggest a trade. And then they report on the trade that they suggested, even though it has nothing to do with our teams — but it has to do with our players. And that happens over and over now. Some guys take it very seriously and read everything. Some guys ignore everything. So you just try to keep a pulse on your team and on each individual.”
A day before Simmons told the Sixers he wasn’t mentally ready to participate, Morey proclaimed the Sixers wouldn’t trade him for anything less than a “difference-maker.” Time will tell, but so far he hasn’t budged and a 25-year-old with three All-Star selections hasn’t appeared in a game this season. Therefore, while some of Rivers’ anti-rumors rhetoric is likely hyperbolic, it is perhaps truer than usual that much of the Simmons trade buzz has been based more in theory than in reality.
Though Rivers has previously held front office roles in the NBA and said he talks with Morey and Brand “about our team-building all the time,” his preference is to focus on coaching his team, which dropped to 23-17 with Wednesday's loss.
“ … Don’t bring me anything that’s not going to happen,” he said. “I’d rather not, if you know what I’m saying. But things that are possible, let’s talk about them. And that’s how they work.”
Rivers didn’t deny that there’s no exact precedent for the Simmons situation.
“It may be different this year,” he said. “I don’t know. Obviously we have the Ben thing. I’m sure there will be some crazy rumors, and there’s not a lot I can do about that, but there may be more than usual. And if that’s the case, you have to deal with it. It’s just part of my job, I guess.”
In on-court matters that affected Rivers’ job Wednesday night: Tobias Harris was available against Charlotte after being listed as probable with right shoulder pain leading into the game. Seth Curry, who'd sat out Monday's win over the Rockets with left ankle soreness, also played.
According to Harris, he's been dealing with the shoulder issue since the Sixers' Nov. 16 loss to the Jazz.
“It happened early in the season, when we were on the road in Utah," he said. “So I’ve been kind of monitoring it. It’s one of those things that I feel every single day since then. The pain is doable enough to play with, but when the time is right I’ll probably look into some things to do for that. But right now I can manage through it.”
Harris said he's aggravated the injury on multiple occasions and described it as “irritating pain."
He was sidelined for six November games because of COVID-19 and said in December he still felt like "every day I have a cold." It's been a difficult first half of the season for him, and hearing his name in recent trade rumors hasn't made it easier.
“Honestly, that’s something I’d rather not talk about," he said. “That already took too much energy out of me yesterday and today, and I’ll just move on from it. But it’s my 11th year in the NBA. It’s not my first rodeo. It’s not the first time I’ve been in trade rumors. It probably won’t be the last. So that’s that.”