After months of turmoil, the Ben Simmons saga with the Philadelphia 76ers is about to end. Contrary to the grapevine, the ending is that Simmons will continue to don the 76ers jersey (at least for the meantime). This welcome conclusion has a lot to do with the patience of the 76ers front office. After all, amid all of Simmons’ shooting woes, they still believed he had value. They wouldn’t just let him go for scraps. But perhaps the most important of all was that head coach Doc Rivers once pulled a Ben Simmons himself during his playing days.
Reports reveal that Simmons had a brief meeting with 76ers president Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand. That is a massive step towards the ultimate goal of regaining Simmons’ trust in the organization. They aren’t out of the woods yet. Simmons’ trade request still stands, according to reports. Aware of this, Rivers shared that they’ll welcome the Australian if he’s ready to play.
He knows that Simmons’ return will likely create some awkwardness at first. However, he trusts in his team, who are professionals who just want to win at the end of the day. Amid all the noise, Rivers believes that his players know what value Simmons brings to the floor.
“Players don’t get involved with people’s business,” Rivers said, per Reuters via ABS-CBN News. “… I’ve been a player and this has happened before, and I was a player that has done it before. Other than those first 10 minutes of welcoming back and taking the crap from your teammates about missing camp and stuff, guys want to win. They do. I’m telling you, especially if you’re on that type of team where you have a chance to win … they look at Ben as a guy that can help them do that.”
What Rivers’ said isn’t just conjecture or a giddy forecast on what’s to come. Rivers knows what will happen because he has experienced it himself. In his lone year with the LA Clippers in the 1991-92 season, Rivers also went through a hold out situation which lasted three weeks — a week longer than the Simmons-76ers situation. The root of Rivers’ holdout revolved around a contract negotiation. When Rivers returned, the sense of awkwardness was appalling.
“What I remember most is, it’s a terrible story, but I’ll tell it, I decided to show up to the first practice and, like, five players were late,” Rivers began with a laugh, per Ky Carlin of USA Sports Today. “(Coach) Mike Schuler introduced me to the team and I went off on the guys about being on time. I hadn’t even been with the team, but I was like ‘This is so unprofessional’. I remember saying that to guys and Schuler thanked me for it so I guess I fit in with the coach. I don’t know about the players right away.”
This episode in Rivers’ career may have been the ultimate saving grace in keeping Simmons in Philly. Ultimately, we don’t know what happens behind the curtains. But we can assume that Rivers whispered this little anecdote to the front office executives.