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NBA

Doc Rivers Brings His Bag Of Tricks, Trials, Tribulations & Triumphs To Philly

Doc left LA without a chip, but will redeem himself by shaping Sixers into championship contenders.

In my personal opinion, the Sixers hiring of Doc Rivers is a brilliant move for a team desperate to get the most out of its two major investments  — center Joel Embiid and Swiss army knife, point GOD Ben Simmons.  

The duo of Doc and Elton Brand (GM) — who was hired to take over after the Bryan Colangelo Twitter burner account scandal in 2018 — gives them much needed clout at the most vital executive positions. 

Doc is a proven winner who will command the RESPECT that Brett Brown never could from his team. As a championship coach and former player with a career winning percentage of .581 with 15 playoff appearances in 21 seasons of coaching, he’ll force Embiid to get into shape and make Simmons begin to expand his game out to the perimeter.

The 2000 NBA Coach of the Year, has the ability to relate to players and these strengths will be on full display. He’s very flexible in his offensive approach unlike (Mike D’Antoni) and he’ll emphasize defense. He won’t have to tweak too much defensively as the Sixers stars are very good on that end of the floor when engaged and locked in. 

Couple all that with Doc’s ability to handle dysfunctional franchises and you see another reason why he’s a good fit for the “City Of Brotherly Love”. 

The Sixers entered 2018 with high hopes, coming off a very promising 2017 campaign in which they won 52 games. Led by young stars Embiid and Simmons, they found out in the playoffs that they were not constructed to championship standards.

Brand hit the ground running, making blockbuster trades for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. He was going for it and at the time, he was being lauded for his aggressive wheeling and dealing.

It didn’t quite work out. Kawhi daggered Philly. Butler ends up in Miami and its been a rocky road ever since.

Lastly, he’ll be tasked with getting the most out of Tobias Harris who still has 4 years remaining on that huge deal he signed last off-season. Harris played for Rivers with the Clippers and averaged a career-best 20.9 PPG on 50% from the floor and 43% from three before being traded. 

The Consumate Point Guard 

Doc Rivers playing career spanned 14 years with Atlanta, LA Clippers, NY Knicks, and San Antonio Spurs) He averaged 10.9 PPG and 5.9 APG. He retired in 1996. 

Young Franchise Constructor 

He got his first coaching job with the Orlando Magic in 1999. Speaking to guys who covered the Magic back then, Doc was an energetic coach who was fair with the media, but very strategic about how he wanted his team to be portrayed. He was all about culture building and a player’s coach. 

The former Marquette point GOD didn’t have the horses to be contenders when he first arrived in the Sunshine State, but the franchise knew it had a championship-caliber coach. 

Doc won NBA Coach Of The Year in 2000, after leading a team that was picked to finish last in the league to a  41-41 record, nearly earning a playoff berth. 

That summer the team went on a shopping spree looking to form a BIG 3 that could return them to the recent glory days when Shaq and Penny Hardaway led them to the NBA Finals.  

They added Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady, and came oh so close to adding Tim Duncan who decided to stay in the Alamo after he was told of the rule that no family members would be allowed to travel on the team plane. 

Still, with Hill and McGrady, the Magic were expected to be contenders, but the ankle of Hill became increasingly problematic. He wasn’t the same superstar force and it basically cost that franchise any hope of seeing that duo reach its potential. 

Even without Hill, the upstart Magic led by budding star T-Mac took a 3-1 lead over the heavily favored Pistons in a No. 1 seed vs. No. 8 seed playoff matchup — only to lose the next 3 games and the series. 

Doc was fired after a 1-10 start in the 2003 season. 

Without an NBA sideline to stalk, Rivers spent that season with NBC and even called the NBA Finals with legendary broadcaster Al Michaels. 

Bring Boston Back, Y’all Better Believe That

Then in 2004, Doc got the kind of job that Black coaches don’t usually get. He was hired by the Boston Celtics in 2004 and in that culture, he was often criticized for his coaching style most notably by Bill Simmons, who had an axe to grind with Doc for years.  

In 2008, the team added future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to complement franchise player Paul Pierce and “The Big Three” was formed. 

Some would even say “Big Four”  when including a young point guard from Kentucky named Rajon Rondo orchestrating the offense, Boston would win the 2008 NBA Title defeating their archnemesis Lakers and the great Kobe Bryant in 6 games. Doc led Boston to its first title in 22 years — since Larry Bird and dem.  

Donald Sterling Saga: Leadership, Speaking Out Against Racial Injustice

Boston continued to contend, losing to the Lakers in a tough NBA Finals rematch the following season. A couple of blown series later and in 2013 Boston traded Doc to the LA Clippers for an unprotected 1st Round Pick, he also became Senior Vice President of Player Operations. 

The team went 57-25 and was the 3rd seed. Using the new moniker “Lob City” they played an exciting brand of uptempo ball. At the time of the playoffs, racially insensitive tapes of owner Donald Sterling were released. This is where Doc showed true leadership as he refused to coach as long as Sterling was still the owner and rumors of a playoff boycott rocked social media.  

Newly-minted NBA Commissioner Adam Silver went into action and Sterling was banned from the NBA, forced to sell the team for a hefty penny to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Rivers would stay on in both roles, but in 2015 his team blew another 3-1 series lead to the Rockets. Critics felt that with the talent Doc had at his disposal (Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and JJ Redick) this was unacceptable and some folks were calling for his job. By 2017, Doc was stripped of his GM duties. 

Oh Yeah…Doc Can Coach

In 2018-2019, Doc redeemed himself and had one of his best coaching performances, leading a team whose two best players were Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell to the playoffs, pushing the Dynasty Warriors to 6 games in the opening round of the playoffs. 

Victim of COVID-19

That summer after a long, drawn out process they added reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and 2-way All-Star Paul George via sign and trade deals. The prohibitive favorite coming into the 2019-20 season along with the (Lakers), another one of Doc’s teams choked away a 3-1 lead —  this time in the NBA Bubble amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and a four-month layoff in the middle of the season.

Philly’s New Leader

He was relieved of his duties a few days later and subsequently hired to coach the Sixers and their talented duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Doc is a good coach who’s best work is getting stars to play together. He holds clout, which commands RESPECT. He’s also a strong communicator and motivator who will get the most out of Philly.

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