A day after expressing doubt about his All-Star point guard's future, Doc Rivers is back on the Ben Simmons train.
The Philadelphia 76ers head coach said Monday that he's "very bullish" on Simmons and has plans to work with his beleaguered point guard this offseason on his shooting woes. Rivers teased the plan a day after Philadelphia's Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, telling reporters he knows "exactly what we want to do."
"I'm positive in Ben," Rivers said. "I'm very bullish on Ben still. But there's work — and Ben will be willing to do it. And that's the key.
"Sometimes you have to go through stuff to see it and be honest with it. Obviously what Ben just went through, I can't imagine that. Because he has so much greatness around him in all the things that he does. There's areas that he can fix quickly in my opinion and get better, that can take him to another level."
Rivers sounded less confident after Game 7 loss
Rivers wasn't quite as confident in Simmons in the immediate aftermath on Sunday's loss, which saw the top-seeded 76ers eliminated from the playoffs in the conference semifinals. Simmons posted his fourth single-digit scoring effort of the series in the loss, tallying five points along with 13 assists and eight rebounds. He attempted just four shots from the field and was benched in the game's critical final minute as his free-throw shooting woes made him an offensive liability.
When asked after the game if he thought Simmons could be the point guard on a championship team, Rivers wasn't so sure.
"I don't know that question or the answer to that right now," Rivers said. "I don't know the answer to that."
Rivers has fiercely and repeatedly defended Simmons when fans and media criticized the point guard's offensive liabilities, chalking up the critique as a "narrative." His comments in the heat of Sunday's loss —while not directly critical — marked a diversion. Amid calls for the 76ers to trade Simmons after the Game 7 loss, Rivers appears to be all-in again on his point guard and ready to put in more work with him.
What will be different for Simmons this offseason?
As for what that work plan is, Rivers declined to divulge details of what will be different for Simmons this offseason. A five-year NBA veteran, shooting problems have plagued Simmons since he joined the league. He went through a regression this season that was magnified in the playoffs.
"I believe, without going into detail with what we're doing, I believe we know what the right work is, and the right type of work, and the right way to do it," Rivers said.
"You can do the work all the time. But if it's not done in the right way and the right type of work, you may not improve. 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. It's not going to be an easy job. But it's definitely a job that Ben can do."
As for Simmons, ESPN's Brian Windhorst reports that he's doubtful to play for his native Australia in the Tokyo Olympics next month and will instead opt to spend the summer "working on skill development."
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