Doc Rivers: Ben Simmons 'Fantastic'; 'I Want Him Back' with 76ers amid Trade Rumors

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 3, 2021

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - APRIL 28: Head coach Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers speaks with Ben Simmons #25 during the first quarter against the Atlanta Hawks at Wells Fargo Center on April 28, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Head coach Doc Rivers said he's hopeful point guard Ben Simmons will return to the Philadelphia 76ers for the 2021-22 NBA season despite trade rumors that popped up after the team's second-round playoff elimination by the Atlanta Hawks.

"Ben's great," Rivers told TMZ Sports in an interview released Saturday. "I want him back. He's terrific. He'll be great. I think he doesn't need a lot of fixing. He's gonna be great for us. He'll be great."

Simmons failed to make a substantial offensive impact over the final three games of the Hawks series, scoring just 19 total points, and Rivers raised some eyebrows with his response to a question about whether the three-time All-Star could be the point guard on a championship team.

"I don't know the answer to that right now," the 76ers coach told reporters.

The next day, however, Rivers expressed confidence the team could work with Simmons to rectify the shooting issues that have plagued him in the NBA.

"After being here for a year, I really do believe we've identified what and how, and now we have to do the do part. We have to work to do it," Rivers said. "It's not going to be an easy job. But it's definitely a job that Ben can do."

Simmons is one of the league's most productive two-way players. He averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 1.6 steals during the regular season while earning his second straight NBA All-Defensive first-team selection.

Yet, he's only attempted 34 threes across four NBA seasons and made just five of those shots (14.7 percent), and he's a career 59.7 percent shooter from the free-throw line.

Those issues are the main reason he hasn't ascended to an MVP level despite his otherwise strong production.

Although Rivers suggested he hopes Simmons will return so they can work with him on those offensive shortcomings, it sounds like the front office continues to at least listen to trade proposals behind the scenes.

Bleacher Report's Jason Dumas reported Friday that Philadelphia has "fielded offers" for the star guard and turned down one from the Indiana Pacers headlined by Malcolm Brogdon and a first-round pick.

If Simmons ultimately stays, the focus will shift to what the 76ers' brass can do in the offseason to upgrade the roster around him and center Joel Embiid to push the team closer to a championship.