Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons said Friday that the team didn't do a good enough job of holding itself accountable last season, which played a significant role in a disappointing 2019-20 campaign.
"One hundred percent," Simmons said when asked whether former Sixer Josh Richardson's comments about the team's overall lack of accountability at the end of last season were accurate. "We didn't know when we were going to get a bucket, who was going to get us a bucket. From that to knowing what we needed to be in at all times, people being held accountable for certain things, whether it's a minor thing, it all plays a part.
"He definitely was right. We weren't in a position to go into that bubble and win. I think our mindset was off, and accountability is a huge part of winning. So I think he was definitely right."
In August, Richardson singled out former coach Brett Brown for criticism, saying he failed to keep the players accountable. Brown was fired in August.
"He's a good guy," Richardson said then. "He's a good man. He means well. I just think, going forward, he's gotta have some more accountability.
"I don't think there was much accountability this season, and I think that was part of our problem."
Simmons seemed to also place the blame at least partially on Brown, saying he has seen a change with the arrival of new coach Doc Rivers during the offseason.
"Bringing in Doc and all these guys in, and Doc's team, with all these coaches around, the maturity has definitely risen with the team," Simmons said. "And I think it's been great to see that and see guys be accountable for certain things and come here ready with a different mindset, and also having those vet guys come in like Dwight [Howard], Danny Green, that's really setting the bar. So you know what to expect."
The 2019-20 season was a nonstop roller-coaster ride for the Sixers. The team dealt with a series of injuries that prevented it from having the full roster together for most of the season, including back and knee injuries to Simmons. There also was the awkward fit of Al Horford next to Joel Embiid in the paint, which led to another series of problems and ultimately led to Horford getting removed from the starting lineup for the first extended period of his career.
Those chemistry issues were evident throughout the season from the outside looking in, and Simmons said they prevented Philadelphia -- even disregarding the injuries -- from being good enough to make the kind of run in the bubble that was expected.
"You just can't come into a situation like the bubble ... if you guys aren't ready, and you don't have that chemistry and accountability already, and Doc and I have spoken about it," Simmons said. "You could tell the teams that were doing well in the bubble were tight-knit and were held accountable for certain things going on, and you could see it. You kind of see it with the Clippers now, with things that are coming out. Same with us. Guys weren't held accountable, myself included. So you really see it. A team that did well was the Lakers. The Heat were playing well; they're a tight-knit group. The Celtics played well, and it showed in the bubble."
Perhaps the only team last season that had its internal chemistry discussed more than the Sixers was Rivers' former team, the Clippers. The latest salvo on that front came earlier this week when Paul George appeared on the "All the Smoke" podcast and criticized the way Rivers used him last season.
Simmons said that from his conversations with Rivers, he has understood that it will be up to the players to hold one another accountable.
"There's only so much that can happen with players and coaches, and that's on the players to make sure they're held accountable," Simmons said. "And if they're not going to listen and do those certain things, they're not going to win. But I think it's a great opportunity for us, being younger guys, to have somebody like Doc come in, so we have to get it done."
Simmons, whose season ended with a knee injury in the bubble, said he is 100% healthy and is working out fully and without restrictions at the team's facility. He also said he is planning to play in the Olympics for Australia next summer, assuming that he is healthy and able to do so.