The Philadelphia 76ers head into Wednesday's regular-season opener at the New Orleans Pelicans without the services of All-Star guard Ben Simmons, who has been suspended for at least that game after coach Doc Rivers told Simmons to go home on Tuesday because the 25-year-old reportedly refused to take part in a defensive drill.
Per Brian Windhorst of ESPN, Rivers admitted the drama surrounding Simmons, who requested a trade during the summer and then remained away from training camp for multiple weeks, is a black cloud hovering over what should be an exciting evening for everyone involved.
"It's a predicament that we're in and that part is no fun. It really isn't," Rivers explained when speaking with reporters. "We get to play right now and Ben is not. I want Ben to be playing. That's his job."
Rivers reiterated he expects Simmons to return to work either Thursday or Friday amid stories the three-time All-Star selection "has mentally checked out of Philadelphia." Following Wednesday night, Simmons will have been fined over $1.7 million, total, for preseason and regular-season contests missed and "for missed practices, on-court workouts and meetings," according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
"Obviously you don't want any of those things. You get a lot of texts, 'great job' and all this stuff and it's not," Rivers added about reactions he's received regarding his handling of Simmons. "I don't think people understand ... you want all your players to do well. You cheer for your players. Even when they're in a tough spot, you want it to go well for them, you do. When you're put in positions like (Tuesday), it's no fun."
The 76ers host the Brooklyn Nets for their home opener on Friday, and Simmons' status for that matchup is up in the air ahead of Wednesday's action.