A video of Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers coaching his star guard James Harden has gone viral on NBA Twitter. Fans have flocked to break down what it means that Harden is getting coached and how it will impact the 76ers season. Before everyone makes a definitive claim, fans should consider that this wasn’t the full context and talking is good, but action also is needed.
Rivers: I’m just going to stay on you, because I get what you’re saying, all right? I want you to hear me first. I get it a hundred percent. But what I’m trying to get Joel first is to establish, be a better post player. We were a horrible — would you agree? — a horrible post passing team last year.
Harden: Of course.
Rivers: Horrible, all right? So our objective is getting that first, and that’s why you’ve got to have the right spirit about it, and you’ve got to be a leader. Like, ‘Motherfucker…’ Get them to do it right. … And then what I’ve got to get y’all right on is when to roll (on pick and rolls), when to pop, when you’ve got the (isolation), and that’s what I’m saying. You and him, y’all gotta get a communication where y’all listen to each other, right? If you want (the ball) — like, I thought those last three or four times you wanted it. We’ve got to get you in (actions that) you want. Like, you can’t just say you’re a facilitator. I need you to be a scorer and a facilitator, and it’s gonna take time clearing it out. But we need you to be the aggressive James that you were those last five minutes (of their scrimmage). And it’s going to come. It’s going to take a while. But when it clicks, James, we’re going to be unbeatable. Unbeatable, all right? But you’ve got to keep your spirit up, and then when you see someone else’s spirit (down). Right now, who else is struggling mentally a little bit?
Harden: Tobias and Tyrese.
Rivers: Right. Right. So we’ve got to get them going. But we’ve got to establish Jo and you. It’s a pecking order.
Part 2 pic.twitter.com/o2TWVPUyB9
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) September 29, 2022
This is actually really good stuff. The kind of insight NFL fans get on the popular HBO series “Hard Knocks.” NBA fans have been clamoring for this kind of insight for years.
A 76ers fan on the one hand would love that the team’s head coach and second-best player are engaged in this kind of discussion. On the other hand, why are they only having this conversation now? Have they discussed this in the offseason?
In NBA locker rooms, the relationship between head coach and star players isn’t a typical boss/employee relationship. It’s more of a partnership. As head coach, Rivers needs to hold the players accountable and lead, but Harden, Joel Embiid and the rest of the guys on the roster are the ones on the court experiencing things in real time.
As much as Rivers is “coaching” Harden here, he’d be well served to listen to the former MVP as well.
Harden: I know what’s going on. But I ain’t the president no more, which I’m fine with that. I just know, I know, like, when I start, like — if I’m not, if I don’t have the ball in my hands. (I’m) not even saying it like that, though — I just know how, like, valuable I am. It’s not even about scoring, but just the pressure that I put on defenses to where I can draw two to three people, and get Tyrese a few shots, even get, even get, Joel eight points a game where he isn’t having to do all that (shimmies as if he’s Embiid in the post).
This is the reality in which the 76ers, Rivers, Harden and Embiid find themselves. They have the components of a really good team. Maybe even a title contender. But they will need to work out some kinks, develop a chemistry and cohesion, and that takes time.
A full season of Harden and Embiid in the pick and roll will devastate the league. Harden creating easy scores for Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris and Embiid will be critical. So too will be Harden’s own assertiveness looking for his shot.
It’s really good that Rivers and Harden are having these types of conversations. The 76ers season will depend on how well they listen to one another and how they execute on the floor.
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