Doc Rivers on Simmons and Embiid: ‘It clearly works when they play together’

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Doc Rivers came to Philadelphia to make what’s there work, not blow the process up.

That means getting Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to mesh in a way that makes the 76ers a contender. When Rivers took questions at his introductory (virtual) press conference of course he sang his stars’ praises (via NBC Sports Philadelphia).

“They’ve won 65 percent of the games that they’ve played in,” he said. “It clearly works when they play together. If you’ve watched my teams, I rarely say that a guy is a 1, a 2 — I don’t get lost in the minutiae. I don’t get lost in what position guys play. I look at how many points we score as a team. I don’t care how we score. My teams have always been very good offensively, in the top five overall. And we score points, and we score points in a lot of different ways.

“We’ve got Ben that scores points, we have Joel, we have Tobias (Harris), we have Shake (Milton), we have Josh (Richardson). This team’s loaded with talent and we’ve just gotta figure out how to make it work the best. But just looking at the numbers, when those two play together they win 65 percent of the games that they play in. That’s a good thing.”

Embiid and Simmons have won a lot of regular-season games together. That’s not the goal for this team. The duo has reached a Game 7 of the second round of the playoffs, but that was with Jimmy Butler serving as the primary shot creator in crunch time minutes. Without him, or a ball handler/shot creator to replace him, the Philadelphia offense sputtered through the season and into the playoffs due to a lack of spacing.

Doc Rivers said Philadelphia should lean into being big — he noted that the Lakers did that — and use the versatility of the players they have to fit into the modern game. Rivers can do things like hold his stars more accountable than Brett Brown reportedly did, and maybe use Simmons in the way he used Blake Griffin at points in the Lob City era with the Clippers.

The Sixers still need more shooting. Rivers said he will have some say in player/personnel decisions, being a voice that GM Elton Brand can trust.

“We’ll work together,” Rivers said. “That’s one of the things that was so exciting about this job, to have that opportunity with Elton. I think we have a chance to build something great here, not just on the court. I actually think it starts off the court…

“That’s exciting. I think Elton and I will have a chance to form an amazing partnership together, and we’ll grow from there.”

Rivers said in his press conference he almost took some time off from coaching but couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

Rivers was pushed out of a high-pressure, win-now franchise with a roster that had chemistry issues in Los Angeles, and he now has a new job as coach of a high-pressure, win-now franchise with a roster that had chemistry issues.

He had success in Los Angeles, just not enough to keep ownership happy. He’s got a five-year contract to do better on the East Coast.