The Golden State Warriors remain reluctant to put a timeframe on Klay Thompson's return from injury, but head coach Steve Kerr said the shooting guard is showing positive signs.

Thompson, who has not played in the NBA since June 2019, participated in team practice on Tuesday for the first time since tearing his Achilles in November last year.

The three-time champion tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) against the Toronto Raptors in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, before sustaining an Achilles injury during his comeback.

Last week, Golden State put out an injury update, vaguely stating he was making "good progress", but his return to training is a significant step in the right direction.

The five-time NBA All-Star remains months away from a competitive return, however, Kerr was upbeat about his recovery on Tuesday.

"Everyone's excited that Klay is out on the floor," Kerr told reporters. "He basically did every single thing in practice today.

"We didn't scrimmage, we didn't have any live contact, but Klay is just so happy to be playing and we're all so happy to see him part of it. So just a really good first day, first couple of days, and good energy as we start to get rolling."

He added: "Klay looked great. Shooting the lights out. His team won the daily shooting competition. And he was smiling, laughing, joking around, it was really fun to see the old Klay back."

Thompson said on Monday that he was around "75 or 80 percentile of what I need to do" in terms of his Achilles injury rehabilitation, while Warriors general manager Bob Myers indicated December or January may be a likely return timeframe.

Kerr added the Warriors playing group were boosted by Thompson's return to training as the franchise seek a return to the playoffs after missing out the past two seasons.

"Part of it is his spirit, his energy, his joy," Kerr said. "A big part of it too is, 'Yeah, we got Klay.' The confidence level as a group -- we're getting Klay back.

"It makes us all feel better. And that's the sense that I have from our guys."

Kent Bazemore and Kelly Oubre Jr. have left the Warriors this off-season, with veteran Andre Iguodala re-joining along with Serbian power forward Nemanja Bjelica as free agents.

Golden State – who are reportedly among the teams interested in disgruntled Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons – added teenagers Jonathan Kuminga (pick 7) and Moses Moody (pick 14) in the NBA Draft.

Russell Westbrook said LeBron James knows what it takes to win in the NBA as the Los Angeles Lakers recruit attempts to claim his first championship.

Westbrook and James will team up in Los Angeles after the former joined his hometown team following a trade from the Washington Wizards.

A nine-time All-Star and former MVP, Westbrook has a long list of honours in the NBA but the 32-year-old is still searching for his maiden ring.

Westbrook, though, is excited to join forces with four-time champion James at Staples Center, having tasted defeat in the 2012 NBA Finals when the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the latter's Miami Heat.

"LeBron out of anybody else, he knows what it takes to win a championship," Westbrook told ESPN.

"My understanding of the commitment, understanding the sacrifices that we are both going to have to make, including myself and [Anthony Davis] as well for the betterment on the team, and finding ways to be able to win a championship.

"And that's the ultimate goal. So anything along the way we, we cannot get distracted, cannot get the deterred from our ultimate goal."

Westbrook averaged 22.2 points, 11.7 assists and 11.5 rebounds with the Wizards last season.

On playing alongside James in LA, Westbrook – a dominant ballhandler – added: "It was going to work."

"When you get a chance to play against one of the greatest players of all time and consistently, it helps my game," Westbrook said.

"It helps my preparation, makes me focus more on the things I need to focus on to get to a point where I can sit down and say, 'I've accomplished everything I can accomplish in this league and now I'm lucky enough to be able to play alongside him.' So I'm looking forward to that, looking forward to the things we can accomplish here together this season."

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said he retains a "burning desire to win trophies" in an ominous sign ahead of the upcoming 2021-22 NBA season.

James is entering his 19th season aged 36 and following an underwhelming 2020-21 campaign, which saw the Lakers dethroned after bowing out of the playoffs in the opening round.

The four-time NBA champion and MVP missed 27 games last season due to injury and averaged the fewest minutes per game (33.4) of his illustrious career.

James averaged 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game last term, while his field-goal (51.3) and three-point (36.5) percentages were his best since 2017-18.

Gearing up for another run, James insisted he is feeling great, having overcome injuries in his quest for a fifth championship ring.

"I still have a burning desire inside of me to want to continue win, hopefully I can bring some trophies at the end of the season," James told ESPN, with the season due to get underway next month.

"That's always been my goal. I love the process more than anything. Hopefully I can put myself in a position where I can do that at the end of the season.

He added: "I'm just a guy who is very determined, who is willing to do whatever it takes for his body to be in the best shape possible to dominate at a high level.

"I'm not afraid to get uncomfortable with anything to get in the best possible shape I can be in."

The Lakers' roster has vastly changed since last season, with Alex Caruso, Dennis Schroder, Andre Drummond, Markieff Morris, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma among those to exit.

Los Angeles have added NBA veterans Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo along with former MVP Russell Westbrook.

Nine-time All Star Westbrook, who turns 33 in November, led the NBA in assists last season and broke Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson's all-time triple-double record in May.

"Right away he ups our pace," James said. "He's always in the top five as far as pace, being able to get out on the break, able to get some early buckets before the defense is set.

"He's also a flat-out playmaker. A lot of people don’t talk about how unbelievable a passer he is. Everyone sees the rebounds and the scoring but how his passing makes other guys run and better doesn't get talked about a lot. We all look forward dot that as team-mates."

James (35,367) sits third on the NBA's all-time scoring charts, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928) ahead of the new season.

The 17-time All-Star refused to get drawn into the current NBA debate around COVID-19 vaccinations, which has sparked with the likes of Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving and Golden State Warriors small forward Andrew Wiggins set to miss home matches due to their refusal to get the vaccine under local state rules.

"I can only speak about myself, everyone has their own choice… I was very sceptical, but after doing my research I felt like it was best suited for myself, my family and my friends," he told reporters on Tuesday. "That's why I decided to do it."

Cade Cunningham might experience "growing pains" but will not "be a bust", insists Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey.

The Pistons selected Cunningham out of Oklahoma State with the first overall pick in this year's draft.

Much is expected of the 20-year-old as he seeks to lift Detroit, who finished bottom of the East last season having been in the playoffs as recently as 2019.

Cunningham scored 20.1 points per game in college last year and should offer help to Jerami Grant on offense.

After Grant's 22.3 points in 2020-21, Derrick Rose (14.2) was the team's next-best scorer, and he left for the New York Knicks after 15 games.

It meant the Pistons had the fourth-worst offense in the NBA (106.6 points per game).

Cunningham, who had 1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks, is a two-way talent, but the need is less pressing on the defensive end of the floor, where Detroit ranked 10th in giving up 111.1 points.

The focus will certainly be on his scoring, yet Casey is happy to stay patient with the team's young new star.

"One thing I know: Cade won't be a bust. He's not. That's one thing, you can guarantee that," Casey said. "But there will be growing pains.

"We have to be supportive. He's going to have a target on his back each and every night, and it's something that [we], his team-mates, the coaching staff, the whole organisation [have] to make sure we support him.

"There's going to be some nights he scores seven and there's going to be some nights he scores 25."

Reflecting on his status as a number one pick, Cunningham said he was "just writing my own story" and added: "This is a different pressure than I've ever faced before, I guess, but I don't really look at it as pressure.

"It's more an opportunity to show people something than to think about all the bad things that can happen."

He echoed Casey's sentiments, however, as he said: "I know it's the NBA and nothing is given to you.

"You have to be humble coming in and just take it for what it is, just try to work your way up. I feel like if you can be consistent every day and just work hard, the good things will come.

"I'm not really going to press, trying to force the issue too early. I want to make sure everything is smooth with the squad and be patient."

Luka Doncic accepts new coach Jason Kidd has a point when he asks his "young Picasso" to have more faith in his Dallas Mavericks team-mates.

Mavs superstar Doncic is heading into his fourth season in the NBA but is yet to win a playoff series.

It is not for a lack of effort or ability, however, with the Slovenian twice going toe-to-toe with the Los Angeles Clippers and coming up just short.

Indeed, through 13 postseason games, Doncic has averaged 33.5 points – a league record at that stage of a career.

With or without Doncic, it is now 10 years since Dallas advanced through a series, last doing so when they were champions in 2011, and title-winning coach Rick Carlisle has been replaced by Kidd – a member of that successful Finals team.

Kidd is looking forward to working with the 22-year-old but, as a former point guard, has already identified a key area of potential improvement.

While Kidd sits second on the all-time list for regular season assists (12,091) and fourth for the playoffs (1,263), Doncic has so far proven a little more reluctant to put the ball in the hands of his colleagues.

The former Real Madrid sensation's 8.6 assists per game ranked fifth in the league, but only Steph Curry in the top 25 attempted more field goals (20.5 per game for Doncic, 21.7 for Curry).

Doncic's usage rate of 36.2 per cent was the highest among players with 500 or more possessions, yet Kidd wants his main man to make better choices.

"I look at Luka as a young Picasso, someone who's very talented, loves to win and understands how to play the game at a very high level," he said.

"As a coach, I don't know if anybody told Picasso that he had to use all the paints. But I just want to remind Luka that he can rely on his team-mates, and his team-mates are going to be there to help him.

"I'm very excited to have this opportunity to work with a young Picasso whose paintings have been incredible up to this point and are only going to get better with time and age."

Doncic had no issue with this critique, replying: "Of course. I just think there's a lot of things I can improve on off the court, on the court.

"Obviously, this is one of them. And I think he is right. But I've still got to improve on a lot of things."

Doncic's displays at the Tokyo Olympics suggested he is growing in this regard, clearly the best player on the Slovenia team but contributing a tournament high in assists (57) as well as points (143).

"I think leadership you develop through years," he said. "You see every year it's going to be a little bit better.

"Obviously, I learned from the playoffs, from the Olympics, how to be a leader. One thing I learned is I need to be more vocal with the team."

Plenty is expected from Doncic, who finished sixth in the MVP race last year without a single first-place vote but is the early favourite for 2021-22.

However, he said: "I don't care about that. It's only the beginning of the season. That's at the end. That's far away.

"The team goals and my goal is to win the championship. That's it."

Kawhi Leonard revealed Monday he is hoping to play for the Los Angeles Clippers this season, and those aspirations were a factor in signing a four-year deal to remain with his hometown team this off-season. 

Leonard suffered a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Game 4 of the Western Conference semi-finals against the Utah Jazz and had surgery July 13. 

A typical ACL return timetable would suggest Leonard is set to miss the entire upcoming season, but the 30-year-old was not willing to accept that as a given. 

That in turn led him to sign a four-year max extension worth more than $176million rather than take a one-year deal with a player option and opt out after this season to sign for five years. 

"I wanted to play," Leonard said at the team's pre-season media day. "I mean, the best situation for me to me was to do it one and one and then opt out and sign a long-term five-year deal, but there's a lot of concerns that that brings up for [the media] and your job and it creates storylines that I'm going to leave the team.

"One thing, I wanted to secure some money, and I wanted to be able to come back if I was able to this year. If I would have took the one and one, I probably would have not played [this season] just to be cautious and opted out and took a five-year.

"I'm here. I'm here to be a Clipper. I'm not going to another team unless something drastic happens, but I'm here for the long run."

Optimistic as he is about being able to play this season, Leonard declined to try and put a timetable on when that might occur. 

He said his focus is day to day, working with the Clippers' medical staff on whatever he needs to do to get back on the court while helping the team however he can in the meantime. 

"That's the challenge of it, just seeing how quickly I can get better and how much stronger I can get than what I was when I'm healthy," Leonard said. "That's where I pretty much turn my mindset to.

"Now just watching games as a coach, being in the coaches' meetings and trying to make myself relevant as possible."

The Clippers' head coach, Tyronn Lue, said the team will "let him take his time and continue to do his rehab" and adjust whenever Leonard is ready to return. 

"I hope he comes back October 21st, but the reality is he's not going to be ready then," Lue said. "We don't want to force him or put any pressure on him. We want to make sure he's rehabbing, doing everything he can to get back as soon as possible, and if that's next season, that's next season.

"We don't want to force him to come back too early. We want to make sure he's 100 per cent when he does come back."

After a 50-year gap between the franchise's first and second NBA titles, the Milwaukee Bucks plan on a much shorter wait for the third. 

That was the overall message Monday as the champions reconvened for the team's pre-season media day. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the charge for that mindset, looking forward rather than back at last season's triumph. 

"I'm not satisfied. I'm not even close to being satisfied," the Greek star told reporters. 

 "As the leader of this team, that's the tone I'm going to set. We understand that teams are coming for us, but we're going to be ready." 

While acknowledging that inevitable target on the team's back, Antetokounmpo sought to maintain the underdog mentality that drove the Bucks last season. 

"We know we were the 2021 NBA champs, but right now we're just the Milwaukee Bucks again that nobody believes in us," he said. "And nobody believes that we can do it again."

Their hopes of repeating will of course rest largely on Antetokounmpo's shoulders, and there were questions about his health Monday. 

He and head coach Mike Budenholzer indicated they will take it easy on the NBA Finals MVP, who is still recovering from the knee injury he suffered in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Atlanta Hawks. 

"I think Giannis’ health and Giannis being at 100 or as close to 100 per cent for as much of the season is important to us," Budenholzer told reporters.

"I think now is the time when you can err on the side [of caution]. We’re always on the side of caution but whatever the other side of that is and just get him strong and physically ready for an 82-game season and a playoff run.

"But it’s the whole group. I think there’s a real awareness that we need to be very conscientious of just trying to do things that make sense given where we are and coming off the season that we had."

Antetokounmpo is on board with that plan, emphasising that the playoffs were a time to play through pain, but the situation is different now. 

"I'm good to go," Antetokounmpo said. "But if I feel like I'm in pain again or whatever the case might be, I have to listen to my body. When you feel pain, it’s your body telling you that it’s protecting you, that you can’t go anymore.

"I've played through pain. I don't think now is the time to risk that. It's too early in the season."

The thought of playing more than half of their games without Andrew Wiggins is "not ideal" for the Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry said Monday. 

The NBA announced Friday it had denied Wiggins' request for an exemption from COVID-19 vaccination requirements, and the forward's status was the prime topic of discussion at the team's pre-season media day. 

Beginning October 13, San Francisco will require vaccinations for all participants age 12 and older at large indoor events unless an exemption is granted for medical or religious reasons. 

Wiggins had sought one on medical grounds, but the NBA's denial means he will not be eligible to play in home games at Chase Center. 

Golden State star Curry, who has been an outspoken advocate of vaccinations, was asked whether he believes Wiggins' decision is acceptable as a member of a team. 

"Acceptable is a strong word," he said. "It's not ideal. ... We hope we have a full team for the entire year and understand that, on all accounts and what the research says and things like that, that [the vaccines are] safe and we're all in the same boat.

"So we hope he's available, and if not, we'll adjust accordingly. But we hope not."

Wiggins deflected numerous questions about the topic during his session with reporters Monday, repeatedly saying he was going to keep his thoughts on the matter "private". 

One reporter noted that Wiggins said last year he would get vaccinated if he had to in order to play and asked him if he felt like his back was against the wall in having to choose between his personal beliefs and being able to play. 

"Back is definitely against the wall," he said. "But just going to keep fighting for what I believe, whether it's one thing or another, get the vaccination or not get the vaccination, who knows.

"I'm just going to keep fighting for what I believe and what I believe is right. What's right to one person isn't right to the other." 

While controversy swirls around Wiggins, the men at the top of the organisation expressed the hope that the situation would be resolved by the time the regular season begins on October 19.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he has not reached the point of trying to figure out how to account for regular absences by unvaccinated players. 

"I haven't spent any time thinking about that, nor will I. We'll just see how everything plays out. We're hopeful that it is all resolved in the next couple of weeks but we are going into camp [Tuesday] with a plan to have everybody out on the floor and ready to roll."

General manager Bob Myers echoed that sentiment, saying he was not interested in discussing hypotheticals and is preparing to start the season with the full team available. 

"I get why people have to wonder," he said. "But we're going to deal in reality now and that's what we're doing each day."

Wiggins played 71 games last NBA season, averaging 18.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

Michael Porter Jr has agreed to a five-year contract extension with the Denver Nuggets that could pay him up to $207million.  

Porter's agents, Priority Sports, announced the agreement on social media on Monday. 

According to an ESPN report that was retweeted by the agency, Porter's extension will max out if he makes the All-NBA first, second or third team this season. If not, he will make $172m over the course of the deal.  

Porter has had recurring back problems that have limited him to 116 regular-season games over three NBA seasons, but the Nuggets apparently believed his production and potential were worth the risk. 

The 23-year-old averaged 19.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in 31.3 minutes per game last season – nearly doubling his average minutes from the prior season after sitting out all of 2018-19 following surgery.  

The hope is that he is just beginning to tap into his potential as a match-up nightmare who can shoot from anywhere on the floor.  

Porter has shot better than 40 per cent from three-point range in his first two NBA seasons (42.2 and 44.5). The only other active players to do that are Golden State's "Splash Brothers", Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.  

Porter is the fourth member of the 2018 NBA Draft class to reach a max extension this off-season, following Luka Doncic with the Dallas Mavericks, Trae Young with the Atlanta Hawks and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with the Oklahoma City Thunder.  

 

Zion Williamson required surgery to repair a fractured right foot in the offseason, though the New Orleans Pelicans are still hopeful he will be fit for the start of the new campaign.

Williamson was hurt while working out ahead of his third year in the league, having made a huge impact for the Pelicans since he was selected with the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

The power forward averaged 27.0 points per game, up from 22.5 points in his rookie year, as well as 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists in the 2020-21 regular season.

Executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin announced Williamson's situation on Monday, making it clear New Orleans are "very optimistic" over the 21-year-old's recovery.

"Zion is returning from a foot surgery suffered at the beginning of the summer, earlier in the offseason prior to NBA Summer League," Griffin said.

"He had a fractured right foot, which was repaired surgically. His timeline should get him back on court in time for the regular season, that would be our hope and view. 

"We're very optimistic about what that looks like. Unfortunately, that's going to be taken as a big negative by all of you (the media), but it isn't for us, because we were dealing with it for the whole offseason. 

"We feel very confident about where things are and very happy with the improvements there."

Williamson's rookie season was a shortened one due to a torn meniscus, delaying his debut. He played in only 24 games, yet quickly demonstrated just why he was so highly rated coming out of Duke.

He became an All-Star for the first time in his second year but a finger injury cut short his involvement with the Pelicans, who missed out on the playoffs once more.

New Orleans open the new season with a home game against the Philadelphia 76ers on October 20 - and their superstar expects to be on the court for that contest.

"It's part of the game," Williamson said of his injury when he spoke at the team's official media day.

"I think I was overdoing it when I was training because I felt like I had this huge chip on my shoulder, this huge boulder, so I was getting after it every day and it just happened. 

"The process through healing has been great, working with the trainer every day. I expect to be back for the first official game."

Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins will be unable to play home games until he meets San Francisco's vaccination requirement after the NBA denied his request for an exemption.

The NBA put out a statement on Friday confirming its decision after Wiggins had sought an exemption for religious reasons to play at the Warriors' Chase Center.

Under local COVID-19 regulations in San Francisco, Warriors players are required to be vaccinated to play in their home arena, unless an exemption is granted for medical or religious reasons.

"The NBA has reviewed and denied Andrew Wiggins' request for religious exemption from the San Francisco Department of Public Health's order requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all participants age 12 and older at large indoor events," the league statement said.

"Wiggins will not be able to play in Warriors' home games until he fulfils the city's vaccination requirements."

Unvaccinated players are permitted to play in the NBA this season with regular testing but there are stricter rules for teams based in San Francisco along with New York.

The announcement comes shortly after the New York Knicks announced all of their roster are vaccinated. The rules also apply to the star-studded Brooklyn Nets.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health's decree may have overridden any NBA exemption granted to Wiggins.

"At large and mega indoor events, all patrons 12 and older must be vaccinated at this time," the San Francisco Department of Public Health statement said.

"Under the current order, if unvaccinated, they cannot enter indoor areas regardless of the reason they are unvaccinated and cannot test out of this requirement even if they have a medical or religious exemption.

"This same rule applies to performers and players employed by the host at large and mega indoor events who are covered by the vaccination requirements of the Health Order."

The Warriors are due to commence their 2021-22 NBA season against the Los Angeles Lakers on October 19. The San Francisco mandate does not take effect until October 13.

Wiggins played 71 games last NBA season, averaging 18.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

Four-time NBA champion Manu Ginobili is returning to the San Antonio Spurs in a front office role.

On Friday, the Spurs announced Ginobili has been named Special Advisor to Basketball Operations, working in player development.

Ginobili spent 16 years playing with San Antonio, winning four NBA titles in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014 under current head coach Gregg Popovich.

San Antonio have courted two-time NBA All-Star and 2004 Olympic gold medallist Ginobili since he retired as a player in 2018.

Ginobili is the Spurs' all-time in three-pointers made (1,495) and steals (1,392), while his career winning percentage of .721 is the best in NBA history with a minimum of 1,000 games.

The NBA championship-chasing Los Angeles Clippers are unsure when Kawhi Leonard will return from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.

Tyronn Lue's Clippers will head into the 2021-22 season without superstar Leonard, who is expected to miss much of the campaign as he recovers from a partially torn ACL in his right knee.

Leonard underwent knee surgery after suffering the serious injury during the 2020-21 playoffs – the Clippers progressed to their first Western Conference Finals before falling to the Phoenix Suns.

Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank fielded questions on two-time NBA champion Leonard on Friday as the team gear up for the new season.

"Oh, we don't even broach that," Frank said when asked if he expects Leonard to play this season.

"I think at this point, it's just no one knows when you're dealing with a recovery from an ACL [injury], the time frame.

"Even just to save you guys [from asking] throughout the year, is no one knows. You just attack it day by day, he has a very detailed plan with a great group and we'll just let his body and the doctors tell us when it's the right time."

A five-time All-Star, Leonard has averaged 26.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists since joining the Clippers in 2019, arriving at the franchise after an impressive title-winning campaign with the Toronto Raptors.

The Clippers went 36-16 when Leonard was active in the regular season last term, outscoring their opponents by 9.0 points per outing. In the 20 games he missed, however, their record was 11-9 and they were outscored by 1.1 points on average.

In the playoffs, the Clippers have lost in the Conference semi-finals and Conference Finals respectively in the past two seasons.

The NBA fined Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob $50,000 for violating the team's anti-tampering rule following his comments about Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons.

Simmons' future is dominating headlines after 76ers head coach Doc Rivers confirmed on Wednesday that the three-time All-Star wants to leave Philadelphia.

The Warriors have emerged as a possible destination for Simmons since his forgettable 2020-21 playoff campaign with the 76ers.

But Lacob cast doubt over a Simmons trade during an interview, prompting a sanction from the NBA.

"In some ways, it doesn't really fit what we're doing," Lacob told the San Francisco Chronicle.

"He makes a lot of money. And, can he finish games? I don't know. He's very talented. The problem is: We have Draymond [Green].

"Draymond and him are very similar in the sense that neither one really shoots and they do a lot of the playmaking. That's one issue. The salary structure is another."

 

Rivers, midweek, told ESPN the 76ers will try to convince Simmons to stay with the franchise amid trade talk.

Simmons and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers.

Former number one draft pick Simmons had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It is the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said the championship contenders will try to convince Ben Simmons to stay after confirming the disgruntled All-Star wants to leave the NBA franchise.

Rivers was speaking on Wednesday, in response to reports Simmons told the 76ers he will not attend training camp next week and does not plan to play for the team again.

It comes after Simmons' forgettable playoff campaign with the 76ers last season – the 25-year-old Australian failed to impress in the shock Eastern Conference semi-final loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Amid reported interest from the likes of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers, Rivers discussed Simmons' future in Philadelphia.

"I mean it was a good conversation," Rivers told ESPN when asked if Simmons had made it known that he wanted out of Philadelphia.

"He gave his reasons, which we obviously didn't agree with. But you know, in sports, there's been so many times this has happened that hasn't been reported and the guy comes back.

"Listen, we're going to go through it, we're going to always do what's best for the team, but I can tell you up front, we would love to get Ben back.

"And if we can, we're going to try to do that. You know, Ben has a long contract. It's in our hands and we want him back."

 

A three-time All-Star and elite defender, Simmons and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers.

Former number one draft pick Simmons had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It is the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

Rivers also tried to clarify comments he made following Philadelphia's elimination at the hands of the Hawks in June.

After the 76ers' failed run at a first NBA title since 1983, Rivers was asked if he thought Simmons could be a guard on a championship team, and he replied: "I don't know the answer to that right now."

On Wednesday, Rivers said: "I want to correct that. I would love you guys to play what I said, because, and I've told you this before Stephen A. [Smith], I never said what was reported.

"The question was asked about Ben, it was the first question after we just lost Game 7, my answer was, 'I'm not answering any of that stuff right now guys, I don't even know how to answer that.' That had nothing to do what's about Ben, I was basically just saying, 'I'm not answering that crap, those questions.'

"It was being portrayed that I was out there saying I don't think we can win with Ben, and I do. I told Ben that the next day. What really disappointed me was the next day I went on and said, 'Guys, y'all knew exactly what I was talking about,' and no one heard it.

"They just kept running their narrative. I've been in sports a long time, and I'm not misrepresented very often, but in that case, I was. But it is what it is. Ben knows, [agent] Rich [Paul] knows, and I know."

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