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Sixers still hopeful talks with Ben Simmons’s management could lead to return

The 76ers and representation for disgruntled NBA All-Star Ben Simmons have been working toward a resolution of the guard’s holdout that could potentially see him rejoin the team.

“Clearly that’s what we want, or we wouldn’t be talking if that wasn’t part of it,” coach Doc Rivers said.

Simmons missed training camp and the preseason in the wake of his off-season trade demand that had left the Sixers without their three-time All-Star — and Simmons out millions in lost salary and fines.

The 25-year-old Australian still has $US147 million ($A200 million) and four years left on his contract.

Rivers said he has not talked to Simmons during the holdout, only Klutch Sports chief executive Rich Paul.

Sixers president Daryl Morey has fielded offers for Simmons but has yet to find a package to his satisfaction that would keep the Sixers among the Eastern Conference’s best teams.

Morey and Rivers have been publicly optimistic since the start of training camp that Simmons would play again for the Sixers.

Doc Rivers has high hopes Ben Simmons will make a return to the Sixers before their opening game against New Orleans on October 21.(Getty: Tim Nwachukwu)

Rivers said he did not know if the situation could be resolved this week. But the possibility of a reunion — as farfetched as it once seemed — could be on the horizon.

“We’ve said from day one what we’ve wanted,” Rivers said.

“We’d love to have him back. Other than that, honestly, there’s nothing to report.”

Rivers said conversations with Klutch “have been good throughout, honestly” and there was no animosity on either side.

The bottom line of the holdout may very well be about the bottom line; the more games and practices Simmons misses, the more money he loses.

Report to Philadelphia and, even if he never plays, the financial bleeding starts to ease up.

How did it get to this point?

Simmons, the number one pick of the 2016 draft, had been paired with Joel Embiid as the franchise cornerstones as the Sixers chase their first NBA championship since 1983.

Simmons, though, took the brunt of the blame for the top-seeded Sixers’ second-round exit in last season’s playoffs. He shot 34 per cent from the free-throw line in the post-season and was reluctant to attempt a shot from anywhere on the floor late in games.

Rivers and Embiid both made pointed comments about Simmons following the game 7 loss to Atlanta.

Rivers said his “I don’t know” response to if Simmons could be a championship point guard was taken out of context.

Embiid has refused to back down and said in camp the melodrama was “weird, disappointing, borderline kind of disrespectful to all the guys that are out here fighting for their lives”.

Rivers downplayed potential issues in the locker room, should Simmons return.

“Other than that first 10 minutes of ‘welcome back’ and taking the crap from your teammates about missing camp and stuff, guys want to win,” Rivers said.

“They want to win and they look at Ben as a guy that can help them do that.”

Could Simmons actually start on October 21 in New Orleans?

“My guess is when, if he comes, I think he’ll be ready to play,” Rivers said.

NBA player shooting a free throw
Philadelphia are desperate to get Simmons back in the line-up ahead of the upcoming NBA season.(Getty: Jesse D. Garrabrant)

Rivers defused the situation, opening his pregame press conference by saying, “Hello, everyone, I have a statement to make.”

As questions about Simmons kept coming before the Sixers played the Brooklyn Nets, Rivers said: “You guys know we have a game today, right?”

The Sixers played without injured point guards Ty Maxey and Shake Milton.

So, what about the point guard situation?

“Well, we don’t have one,” Rivers said.

Help, still perhaps implausible, might be on the way.

AP


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