To recap: Simmons made another All-Star team and helped the Sixers get the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, then had an awful second round series in the playoffs defined by historically bad free throw shooting and an unwillingness to shoot in the fourth quarter (even on wide open dunks) as the Atlanta Hawks pulled off the upset. Head coach Doc Rivers and superstar teammate Joel Embiid threw Simmons under the bus for his rough performance at the end of the series, and Simmons told Philadelphia he wanted to be traded. The Sixers asked for the world for Simmons and never completed a deal, and now Simmons is saying he’s going to hold out of training camp until he’s finally dealt. It’s a mess.
Before the Sixers report to training camp next week, Rivers stopped by MSNBC to promote a new podcast he’s narrating called “It Was Said: Sports.” The podcast focuses on iconic sports speeches — “including Jack Buck’s “For America” poem following the 9/11 attacks, Muhammad Ali protesting the Vietnam War, Billie Jean King championing equal pay” — and discusses why they continue to resonate with us to this day.
During his interview with host Willie Geist, Rivers was asked about the Simmons’ trade demand. Rivers said the team is trying to convince Simmons to stay in Philadelphia, but they’re having a hard time changing his mind. This led Rivers to make an outlandish and objectively hilarious comparison:
“There’s times that I think we’re getting through,” Rivers acknowledged. “And there’s times that I think that I’m talking to people who still believe Trump won the election. So I’m not sure, but I’m going to keep trying.”
Here’s the video:
76ers: “Doc, go do some damage control on national TV so Ben will want to stay in Philly.”
Doc: “There’s times that I think we’re getting through, and there’s times that I think I’m talking to people who still believe Trump won the election.” pic.twitter.com/laAvKOdtGN
— ProCity Hoops (@ProCityHoops) September 24, 2021
No matter what Rivers and the Sixers say to Simmons, they can’t convince him to go back to work for the team despite being under contract for the next four years. To Rivers, this is somehow similar to voters on the right who refuse to accept that Trump lost the presidential election to Joe Biden. What in the world.
This is just classic Rivers here. He’s pandering to the MSNBC audience that hates Trump. He’s pandering to the Philly sports fanbase by talking about how stubborn Simmons is being. He’s making a connection that really doesn’t make any sense. It’s beautiful and outrageous and totally unnecessary.
Rivers’ comments on Simmons after the Game 6 loss to the Hawks played a big role in Simmons wanting out. Rivers has tried to walk back those comments recently, but it doesn’t look like it’s working. Rivers comparing him to Trump superfans for like no reason at all probably isn’t going to help matters.
It’s going to be a weird season in Philly.