Injuries limit Doc Rivers’ ability to tackle Ben Simmons – Delco Times
PHILADELPHIA — With three regular starters injured and thus a truncated bench, Doc Rivers’ playbook Tuesday was short on one page. There would be no order for the Sixers to deliberately hack a certain Brooklyn Net with a history of free throw ineffectiveness.
“You’re talking about Nick Claxton, aren’t you?” Rivers said when asked the question.
Claxton is a sub-40 percent shooter, so it can work occasionally. But Rivers was about to work out against Ben Simmons at the Wells Fargo Center for the first time since the 2021 postseason when the former Sixer was repeatedly, deliberately sent to the line by the Atlanta Hawks … with horrific results.
Although Rivers has never been known as a hack-a-player coach, he accepts the gamble as a pace-changing gimmick that has become part of the NBA game.
“Have you seen any of my teams?” he said. “When I was with the Clippers, I had DJ (DeAndre Jordan, a sub-50 percent foul shooter) and some other players, and they did that to us all the time. I haven’t necessarily had the opportunity to do that. But we have done it. It just has to be at the right time and the right place. So for us, in a game like tonight, it’s a bit tougher when we only have 10 guys. Mistakes are top notch.”
Simmons entered the game having made 11 of 22 free throws this season.
The Sixers were without Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey, who are all recovering from foot injuries. Tobias Harris, who had missed the previous two games with a sore left hip, started, along with Shake Milton, De’Anthony Melton, Montrezl Harrell and PJ Tucker.
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In the trade that sent Simmons to Brooklyn and gave them Harden, the Sixers lost Rivers’ son-in-law, Seth Curry.
“My grandkids were at my house today and I told them to make sure they were wearing Sixers gear,” Rivers said before the game. – They don’t know any better yet.
The professional interaction between the Curry and Rivers families is not new. Rivers has coached and coached against his son Austin Rivers, who is a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Curry’s brother, Steph Curry, is in the extended family. Doc’s son Spencer Rivers is a member of the Sixers’ skill development staff.
“Maybe one day you’ll look back and say, ‘Man, that’s really cool,'” the Sixers coach said. “You must train your son. You have to train against your son-in-law. You have to train against your son. Those are pretty cool moments. Very few people on earth, in any sport, have had the opportunity to do that.”
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After not leaving Philadelphia on the best of terms, Simmons prepared for a predictable serenade.
“I know what’s coming,” he said.
He also knew why.
“One thing about Philly fans: They’re incredible,” he said. They’re hard-nosed Philly. Anything Philly, whatever that is. I respect that with the city. It is a sports town.”
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Rivers was once Nets coach Jacque Vaughn’s coach with the Orlando Magic. He’s not surprised the former guard became an NBA head coach, replacing the recently fired Steve Nash.
“I’m very happy for him,” Rivers said. “Jacque was one of those guys that you just knew. There are some guys where you say, ‘He’s going to be a coach.’ shooter—that the worse you shoot, the better coach you’ll be. So, Jacque, you’re going to be a good coach.”
Vaughn has appreciated the years of Rivers’ advice.
“In Orlando, I was able to see firsthand how he motivated his team, the strategy, how he conducted himself on a daily basis,” he said. “As a player, I noticed all these things.”
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NOTES >> Furkan Korkmaz, who had missed the previous three games with a knee injury, was cleared to play … Harden missed his eighth straight game. Embiid was ruled out of a 7 o’clock game Saturday night in Charlotte, with Rivers suggesting the two could get back together soon.