NBA

Simmons out of Nets clash but 76ers coach Rivers positive after 'productive' meeting

By Sports Desk October 22, 2021

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said while disgruntled All-Star Ben Simmons remains away from the team, he took positives from Friday's meeting.

Simmons – who has demanded a trade – was suspended for Wednesday's NBA season-opening win over the New Orleans Pelicans due to "conduct detrimental to the team" following reports he was ejected from practice after Rivers grew frustrated with his lack of engagement.

The Australian has also been ruled out of Friday's showdown with star-studded Eastern Conference rivals the Brooklyn Nets at Wells Fargo Center.

Reports of a meeting between Simmons, Rivers and his team-mates emerged on Friday, with ESPN claiming the former number one pick was not mentally ready to play and needed time to step away.

Speaking afterwards and prior to tip-off against the Nets, Rivers told reporters: "I felt good up and down throughout and I kept saying that, things do change.

"That still doesn't mean it's gonna work out perfect or it could, but I always believed that. I've never wavered from that. I've said that 100 times and I still stick with it."

Rivers added: "It was a productive day, but it's a start. That's the only way you can get going, you gotta start, and today was a start."

Simmons – an elite defender who signed a five-year, $177.2million contract extension in 2019 – and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers, who were eliminated in the semi-finals.

The 25-year-old had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs against the Hawks last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

 

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

"He is part of the team," he continued. "We have certain rules, obviously, the other day, that didn't happen, but today was a good day.

"Most people, we look at problems instead of the possibilities and I think if we focus on the possibilities, just in life in general, you have a pretty good chance of going to a good place. If you focus on the problems, you're probably gonna continue to have problems."

Including the playoffs, Philadelphia are 9-2 in their last 11 games against the Nets. Additionally, the 76ers have six straight home wins in the series, starting with Game 2 of the first round of the 2019 postseason.

Four Philadelphia players scored 20-plus points against New Orleans, with Joel Embiid and Furkan Korkmaz each having 22 and Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey finishing with 20. The 76ers had zero games last season with four 20-plus point scorers, according to Stats Perform.

Related items

  • Curry, Paul lock horns again as Warriors and Suns meet in historic matchup Curry, Paul lock horns again as Warriors and Suns meet in historic matchup

    It is very early in the season to describe any game as being akin to a playoff matchup but Tuesday's meeting between the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns has an extremely compelling case for receiving such a label.

    The Warriors have been the class of the NBA to this point, their record of 18-2 the best in the league.

    However, their title credentials will be sternly tested in Phoenix, where they will face a 17-3 Suns team looking excellently placed to go one better in 2021-22 after losing in the NBA Finals to the Milwaukee Bucks last season.

    The matchup between the two Pacific Division rivals will mark the first time in NBA history that two teams with a winning percentage of 85 or higher after a minimum of 20 games have faced each other.

    In that sense, it is big as stages get in late November in the NBA, and the Warriors boast a player born to dominate such arenas in Stephen Curry.

    Curry is enjoying another remarkable year, compiling a superb MVP resume after finishing third in the voting last term.

    He is tied for the league lead in points per game (28.6) with former team-mate Kevin Durant, while his season-long plus-minus of 283 is comfortably the best in the NBA. Reigning Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is a distant second on 197.

    Curry's 105 made three-pointers are 20 more than nearest challenger Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings, seven of those coming on Sunday in another spectacular showing to propel the Warriors past the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.

    He will be the lead protagonist in what is likely to be a fascinating encounter between two excellent backcourts. With Klay Thompson still yet to return after two seasons lost to injury, Curry has received magnificent support from the emerging Jordan Poole, who has averaged 19.8 points per game this month and is one of five Warriors in the top 10 in plus-minus for November, illustrating the depth at their disposal.

    Three Suns also reside in the top 10 of that list, including their two guards Chris Paul and Devin Booker.

    Eleven-time All-Star Paul continues to defy Father Time and is again the Suns' chief creative force after helping them come within two wins of an NBA title.

    Meanwhile, shooting guard Booker is hitting a career-high 41 per cent of his three-point attempts, perhaps setting things up for an absorbing back and forth between him and the man most regard as the greatest shooter of all time.

    PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

    Golden State Warriors - Draymond Green

    With the vast majority of the attention on the enduring brilliance of MVP favourite Curry, it would be easy to overlook the contribution of Green, who has served as chief facilitator for the Warriors' talisman.

    Green has 106 assists to his name in the month of November. No other non-point guard has registered more.

    Shooting a career-high 55.5 per cent from the field this season, Green is once again proving he can be a critical part of a potential championship team, and the Warriors will need him at his best on both ends of the floor to maximise their hopes of seeing off Phoenix.

    Phoenix Suns - Chris Paul

    From his time with the Clippers, through his prominent role in engrossing playoff battles between the Houston Rockets and the Warriors to his increasingly impressive spell with the Suns, matchups that see Paul go against Curry have long since been must-watch affairs.

    The 'point God' has consistently been overshadowed by the shooting magic of Curry but, among your more conventional point guards, there is still arguably nobody better.

    Paul leads the league with 10.1 assists per game this season, justifying the Suns' decision to bring him back on a lucrative contract after their Finals agony of the previous campaign.

    He must ensure the Suns' offense outshines Curry and the Warriors this time around if Phoenix is to send an early message by knocking off Golden State.

    KEY BATTLE - Can Warriors beat Ayton on the boards?

    The Warriors have been among the best rebounding teams in the NBA this season.

    Golden State have registered 47.1 rebounds per game, good for fifth in the league.

    Meanwhile, the Suns rank 15th in the same category with 45.7, but do possess one of the top rebounders in the league in Deandre Ayton.

    The Suns center is averaging 11.4 boards per game, the sixth-most in the NBA.

    If the Warriors are to have the advantage on the glass in this one, they will need to find a way to mitigate Ayton's impact.

    HEAD-TO-HEAD

    The Warriors prevailed 122-116 in the last meeting between the two teams, however, Golden State have won only one of their last four games against the Suns in Phoenix.

  • Ballon d'Or: Who won what at the 2021 awards Ballon d'Or: Who won what at the 2021 awards

    Paris Saint-Germain superstar Lionel Messi clinched a seventh Ballon d'Or, extending his record as the player to have won the individual accolade on the most occasions.

    The 34-year-old enjoyed a fruitful year at club level, scoring 32 times in 40 appearances across all competitions for PSG and Barcelona, but it was his exploits with Argentina that were most impressive, claiming the first major international trophy of his career by winning the Copa America. 

    Bayern Munich's prolific striker Robert Lewandowski came second to Messi, but became the first winner of the Striker of the Year award after outscoring every player in Europe's top five leagues, netting 53 times in 42 appearances across all competitions so far in 2021, averaging a goal every 67 minutes.

    Messi's PSG team-mate Gianluigi Donnarumma claimed the Yashin Trophy, awarded to the best goalkeeper, and was named 10th in the Ballon d'Or voting.

    Donnarumma starred for Italy as they won Euro 2020, making a number of crucial saves in the shoot-out victory over England in the final.

    Barcelona and Spain youngster Pedri won the Kopa Trophy after featuring heavily for club and country despite only turning 19 on November 25, also being shortlisted for the Ballon d'Or and finishing 24th.

    Another Barca midfielder, Alexia Putellas, picked up the women's top prize, having helped the Catalan giants' women's team to Champions League and domestic glory in 2020-21.

    Finally, Chelsea had 11 players nominated across all categories, making them the inaugural Club of the Year winners.

    Award winners in full:

    Men's Ballon d'Or – Lionel Messi (PSG and Argentina)
    Kopa Trophy – Pedri (Barcelona and Spain)
    Yashin Trophy – Gianluigi Donnarumma (PSG and Italy)
    Club of the Year – Chelsea (England)
    Striker of the Year – Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich and Poland)
    Women's Ballon d'Or – Alexia Putellas (Barcelona and Spain)

  • Belichick vindicated once more as Jackson builds DPOY case Belichick vindicated once more as Jackson builds DPOY case
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.