Doc Rivers Says Ben Simmons Isn't in Game Shape Ahead of 76ers' Season Opener

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVOctober 17, 2021

Philadelphia 76ers' Doc River speaks to the media after practice at the NBA basketball team's facility, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Camden, N.J. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Head coach Doc Rivers provided an update on Ben Simmons after the star point forward practiced with the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday for the first time since ending his holdout, telling reporters he doesn't believe Simmons is in game shape yet. 

"I don't know yet. I'm going to wait and see. Conditioning I would say, just watching him, I thought he was in decent shape," Rivers said. "Still not obviously game shape. He can do all that stuff, but overall, yeah."

Simmons did not meet with the media Sunday. 

"We just introduced like we always do when a new guy comes back or the old guys come back. We jokingly did it," Rivers told reporters when asked if Simmons addressed the team. "We did it with Tobias as well, because he's been on vacation and Matisse as well. But as I told you before, the players pretty much welcome guys back."

Rich Hofmann @rich_hofmann

Tobias Harris was asked if the vibe at practice today was awkward. He smiled and facetiously said, "No, it was perfectly fine."<br><br>And then he expanded on the Sixers' mindset with Ben Simmons returning. <a href="https://t.co/SZcdSMP2si">pic.twitter.com/SZcdSMP2si</a>

Keith Pompey @PompeyOnSixers

Furkan Korkmaz on Simmons' return: "It was good to have him back. Personally, I missed him. To be on the same floor with him again, personally I'm happy to see him back here on the court and I hope we have more work to do."

Tom Moore @TomMoorePhilly

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Sixers?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Sixers</a> wing Matisse Thybulle has little to say about Ben Simmons’ return. ‘I live in my world.’

Simmons held out for the majority of training camp and the preseason, hoping to force a trade after reports throughout the offseason that he no longer wanted to play for the Sixers. But with no trade happening, and Simmons facing the reality of lost pay, he returned to Philadelphia this past week. 

It has been the biggest storyline of Philly's offseason and one of the biggest storylines in the NBA, period. The question remains whether Simmons will be on the floor when the Sixers open their season Wednesday night in New Orleans against the Pelicans at 8 p.m. ET. 

Moreover, how will Simmons perform upon his return? Will it be All-Star production as usual, or will the Sixers get a lackluster effort from a player who seemingly wants a change in scenery?

There's little doubt that there are fundamental problems with the fit between Joel Embiid and Simmons from a basketball perspective, with each player operating at his best near the basket. But trading Simmons would also mean losing one of the best, most versatile perimeter defenders in the league and one of the best passers on the other side of the court. 

"I personally haven't talked to him since the season ended," Embiid told reporters last week. "Obviously, I tried, but it wasn't successful as a lot of my teammates have. It's unfortunate the whole situation happened, but we're a better team with him on the floor. I think there are going to be some adjustments, but it doesn't need to be awkward. We are professionals, we want to win. I want to win. He gives me the best chance to win, so that's what I'm going to go with."

As Philly seeks to maximize Embiid's prime, giving away Simmons for pennies on the dollar has never made sense. But it remains to be seen if the Sixers will get an all-in version of Simmons as they seek that trade or an unhappy player simply punching the clock.