CAMDEN, N.J. — For the most part, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers shares what he’d like with reporters and nothing more.
He was steadfast Tuesday in opting not to expand on the “distraction” Ben Simmons caused that, in Rivers’ mind, warranted kicking the All-Star out of practice.
But, as the basketball world digested the news of Simmons’ one-game suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team,” Rivers couldn’t help but express a core truth about the Sixers’ current state of affairs.
“Every day you’re surprised,” he said. “Every day. This is not something that’s been building or something like that, no.”
The latter half of that quote is a bit dubious. Simmons requested a trade, held out until last week and wasn’t the embodiment of engagement or effort in the brief segment of Monday’s practice open to reporters. “Every day you’re surprised” is on the money, though.
If the Sixers besides Simmons have been anything throughout his multi-month saga, it’s dutiful. When pressed, they’ve told reporters what’s most important is focusing on things within their power.
An incisive Joel Embiid conveyed that point well Tuesday.
“At this point I don’t care about that man, honestly,” Embiid said. “He does whatever he wants. That’s not my job. That’s (the front office’s job). I’m only focused on trying to make the team better, win some games, play hard every night, try to lead the guys that are here, and I’m sure they feel the same way.
“Our chemistry has been excellent despite everything else that happened the last few months. So like I said, I don’t really care.”
The Sixers' public relations team passed along the news Sunday that Simmons would address reporters on one of the next two days for the first time since June 20. On Monday, the message was that Simmons would speak Tuesday, which attracted an eager flock of media members to the team’s practice facility.
By the time the team’s brief statement on Simmons’ suspension hit inboxes early Tuesday afternoon, it was fair to assume he wouldn’t be available. Indeed, he was gone from the practice gym when reporters filed in.
Rivers has a game to coach tomorrow. He at least knows Simmons will not be his starting point guard. Tyrese Maxey and some blend of Furkan Korkmaz, Isaiah Joe and whichever player grabs a defensive rebound will handle the ball.
“I will tell you this: Watch football, baseball, basketball, it’s happened a thousand times, and it can happen here, too,” Rivers said. “My job as a coach is to keep trying to get guys to buy in, to be in. And unfortunately, this is tougher, this situation, but that’s my job. And I’m not going to stop my job.”
Rivers, Embiid and the Sixers will wake up Wednesday morning in New Orleans and aim to start 1-0. Embiid, who said he has not talked with Simmons, is hoping to build on an MVP runner-up season. Simmons’ conduct doesn’t align with that goal, and so it’s not his primary concern.
“I’m not here to babysit,” Embiid said. “I’ll be willing to babysit if someone wants to listen, but that’s not my job. That’s out of my control. I’m focused on what’s here and trying to win some games.”
Everything about the Sixers could change in an hour, or a day, or a week. Still, Rivers insisted Simmons won’t necessarily have a true “detrimental” impact.
“Well, I hope that it doesn’t,” he said. “The team is in a good place right now. Again, I’ve got to focus on our team, not what could happen. I’ve got to focus on what’s happening now.”
Tomorrow, he’ll have something different to focus on. And yes, it’s reasonable to think he might be surprised.