Through four games of action in the 2020-21 NBA season, Philadelphia 76ers All-Star forward Ben Simmons has yet to attempt a single shot from beyond the 3-point arc. Additionally, Simmons is averaging a career lows in field-goal attempts per game (10) and shooting from the field (50 percent). While this slow shooting start may be discouraging to those eager to see Simmons expand his game with his shot, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers isn't concerned with Simmons shooting, as long as he continues to contribute in a multitude of other areas.
"I could care less," Rivers replied bluntly when asked how he felt about Simmons' hesitancy to shoot early in the season after Philadelphia's 100-93 victory over the Toronto Raptors Tuesday night. "I'll let you guys talk about what Ben doesn't do. I just want Ben to keep playing great defense, running our team, and winning games.
"I want to win," Rivers added. "I swear. Someone taught me this long ago -- you win the game. You keep winning games and you don't worry about who scores. Ben missed some great shots tonight. If he had converted two or three of the layups that he had and got to the foul line a little bit more, he would have been fine. We played good offense tonight. We just couldn't make shots, literally by our shooters. So that's all I'm concerned with."
Rivers' comments echo what he said prior to the season's start when he made it clear he wouldn't be putting pressure on Simmons to shoot.
"I don't care about Ben's shooting as much as so many other people seem to care about it," Rivers said last month. "I care that he's a great player. I'm going to let him play. I'm going to give him the keys and let him be free and play. If he takes no shots, I'm fine. If he takes 10 3s, I'm fine. If he gets to the line 15 times, I'm fine. Ben is brilliant enough for me to allow him to play and not get in his way and try to cloud his head up with a bunch of crap. It's about winning, and that's what I want Ben to focus on, how to make each other better and win."
Rivers' approach to Simmons' shooting is different than that of former Sixers coach Brett Brown, who publicly stated that he wanted to see Simmons shoot more.
"This is what I want," Brown said last December. "I want a 3-point shot per game, minimum. … He will be liberated. His world will open up and, in many ways, so will ours."
Brown's public plea didn't work, so Rivers has obviously decided to go in a different direction. Ultimately, the hope for the Sixers is that Simmons will indeed continue to expand his range and become increasingly comfortable with shooting from distance, as doing so will make him virtually unstoppable on the offensive end. In the meantime, though, Rivers has clearly decided to focus on the plethora of other things that Simmons does at an elite level on a basketball court. Simmons leads the Sixers in assists and blocks early in the season, and he's second on the team in rebounds and steals. He's also been stellar defensively. Sure, there's a hole in his game, but that doesn't negate all the positive things he does on the floor for the Sixers, and Rivers is clearly well aware of this.