When it comes to Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons, all everybody wants to talk about is his lack of three-point shooting. As point guards in today's NBA are known to launch threes from all over, Simmons' unwillingness to consistently utilize his long-range jumper calls for double the criticism surrounding his game.
Back when Brett Brown coached Simmons and the Sixers, he downplayed the shot often. However, there was a point when Brown considered benching Simmons as he publicly stated he wanted at least one three-point shot from Simmons in each game, which Simmons clearly ignored.
First-year Sixers head coach Doc Rivers isn't taking the same approach. In fact, he's done the opposite. Not only does he believe Simmons' three-point shot shouldn't be discussed as much -- but he also isn't forcing the two-time All-Star to attempt threes either, unlike Brown did last season.
Back in early December, here's what Rivers had to say about Simmons' shot:
"I don't care about Ben's shooting as much as so many other people seem to care about it," Rivers said on Tuesday. "I care that he's a great player, and I'm gonna let him play. I mean, give him the keys and let him be free and play."
When Rivers made that comment following the first day of Sixers training camp, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith felt a way about it. So, when Stephen A. had an opportunity to talk to Rivers on the record, he pressed the Sixers head coach to explain further once again.
"I really believe that. It is important in the long run, let’s be honest, but I want Ben Simmons to play free. I don’t want him to play thinking about shooting a jump shot. I want him to play downhill, get in the paint, make plays, get to the free-throw line, something that no one’s ever told them like get to the line as much as possible 10 times a game if you can get there."
Up until Thursday night, Simmons had yet to take a three-pointer four games into the season. Aginst the Orlando Magic on New Year's Eve, that changed. Early on in the game, Simmons felt he had enough space to take a corner three. So, he launched it up with confidence and knocked it down.
After the game, both Simmons and his teammate Seth Curry talked about the shot. It wasn't until Saturday when Rivers discussed the infamous topic once again. And as expected, Rivers seemed more annoyed than amused.
“Honestly, I could care less," the head coach said. "I just thought it was in the flow of the moment, and he shot the ball; that’s what he’s supposed to do. We didn’t have a parade or anything like that. I just want Ben to be Ben, and that’s what I keep stressing to him. I don’t know [if draining the shot is a stepping stone to anything more]. I think every shot by every player gives them some kind of confidence. I can tell you it’s not anything that I really emphasize. For him, it’s gotta assume it felt good.”
Doc Rivers doesn't want Simmons forcing one three-pointer each game. Since he's come to Philly, Rivers made it apparent that individual stats will never be something he is concerned with -- especially when it comes to Simmons.
"[Everybody is] way too focused on threes for Ben," Rivers stated. "I’m trying to make him a great player. I’m going to keep saying it; You guys can count all of his threes -- I’m going to count all the wins.”
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_