While most of the talk these days surrounding the Philadelphia 76ers is about their unhappy point guard Ben Simmons and what teams he could possibly be traded to, head coach Doc Rivers is focusing on the players that he does have at his disposal.
With Simmons still refusing to report to training camp, the 76ers will undoubtedly look different to the side that topped the competitive Eastern Conference during the regular season last year, with an impressive 49-23 record. Without their star point guard, Philadelphia will need to rely on their depth more and young players like Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey.
Rivers was asked about his team’s depth by reporters ahead of Philadelphia’s preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets and the coach made it clear that he will do whatever is necessary in order to win a game.
“If we ended up playing 11, great, we end up playing nine, as I said last year I’m gonna try to get you guys on this, I don’t focus on a rotation as much as you guys focus on the rotation,” said coach Doc Rivers, via USA Today. “I focus on winning that game. You know what I’m saying?”
While the 76ers were a force to be reckoned with during the regular season last year, they ultimately fell short when it really matters in the playoffs. They were eliminated in the second round in seven games by the Atlanta Hawks and have not made it to the Eastern Conference final since 2001. The team are desperate to win their first NBA championship since 1983, but still have some questions to answer heading into the upcoming campaign.
Until the 76ers can deal Simmons and get some sort of return for the three-time All-Star though, Rivers will need to utilize the current roster to the best of his ability.
“You obviously end up having a rotation, but this is a team that’s going to be changeable,” Rivers continued. “We’re not going to have a set starting lineup most likely, we may. We’re going to change depending on who we’re playing and our players will be mature enough to handle that. I’ll let you guys figure out what that is, but I’m talking about rotations. I just don’t.”
The coach seems confident with what he has seen from some of his younger players during training camp though as he does his best to ensure that the Simmons drama does not affect his team’s play on the court.
“Isaiah has been phenomenal throughout so he’s putting pressure,” Rivers said of the team’s 22-year-old shooting guard Isaiah Joe. “He’s gonna put pressure on people to play, and that’s a good thing for us, that’s the way we look at it because the guy who may be in front of them knows he’s coming to. I’ve always thought that’s very healthy for your team.”
It remains to be see how the Simmons story in Philadelphia will end, but the 76ers will begin their regular season with or without him in the lineup on October 20th in New Orleans against the Pelicans.