When Brett Brown coached the Philadelphia 76ers, fans and the media obsessed over Ben Simmons' lack of a jump shot. Last season, everybody expected Simmons to expand his game more with a jumper as he said, "if it's open, I'll take it" during the offseason. Then, the regular season came around, and Simmons was still mostly hesitant to let it fly consistently.
Brown called Simmons out to the media, saying he wants at least one three-point shot from him a game. As we know, Simmons didn't oblige. Brown's days as the head coach are gone, and now the veteran Doc Rivers is in the building. Many hoped Rivers could be the guy to get the jump shot out of Simmons finally, but the seasoned head coach doesn't believe it matters much.
"I don't care about Ben's shooting as much as so many other people seem to care about it," Rivers told the media back at the beginning of December. "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. If he takes no shots, I'm fine. If he takes ten threes, I'm fine. If he gets to the line 15 times, I'm fine. Ben is brilliant enough for me to allow him to play and not get in his way and try to cloud his head up with a bunch of crap."
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith heard this quote a while back and finally had the opportunity to approach Rivers about it. On Friday, Rivers joined Stephen A. on ESPN's First Take and defended his mindset regarding Simmons' jump shot once more as Stephen A. remains in the crowd of media members who believe Simmons needs a jumper.
"I think that Ben Simmons is elite. This dude is a jump shot away from being LeBron James 2.0 that’s how gifted I think he is," Smith said. "Not only is he not perceived as being a shooter, he doesn’t even attempt to shoot, and Doc Rivers was quoted as saying that’s not that important. First of all, is that quote accurate than just say that, and if so, why on earth would you say that?"
Once again, Rivers didn't hold back as he truly believes Simmons' jump shot is not as critical as everybody makes it seem. "I really believe that," Rivers said about his quote, which was controversial to Smith. "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."
Rivers is under the belief that if Simmons gets to the free-throw line consistently, his jump shot will come to him as he continues to shoot. While Simmons' unwillingness to consistently take a jump shot every now and then in year four so far is somewhat concerning, Rivers doesn't want to force the issue. All the veteran head coach is worried about is winning games. With the way Simmons plays now, the 76ers can win. So, Rivers doesn't see a need to push for a drastic change right now.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_