“Maybe James, Only Because James Can” | Former Sixers Head Coach Doc Rivers Opens Up On Why James Harden Frustrated Him More Than Ben Simmons

Late Monday night the Philadelphia 76ers dealt star guard James Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The move came after months of back-and-forth between Harden and team president of basketball operations Daryl Morey.

For months Harden wanted out because he says Morey lied to him about a long-term deal if he took a team-friendly one last season. When the alleged agreement didn’t go as planned Harden repeatedly called Morey a liar in interviews, and even on his Adidas tour in China. 

Caught in the middle of Harden and Morey’s beef after years of success together in Houston was former Sixers head coach Doc Rivers, who was relieved of his duties after the Sixers blew a 3-2 lead against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals this year, in large part due to Harden’s ineffective play.

Rivers, now an analyst on ABC/ESPN’s No. 1 team with Mike Breen and Doris Burke, recently opened up on how hard and frustrating it was coaching Harden.

Harden Frustrated Rivers More Than Ben Simmons

After the Ben Simmons fiasco in Philly, there’s no way Rivers could’ve expected to have more difficulty with Harden, but he did. During a recent appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show,” Rivers spilled the beans on that, and how Harden never regained focus when he wasn’t chosen as an All-Star last season.

“He would never say this, but in my gut, I thought it changed almost immediately,” Rivers said. “I remember about a game or two after that, he called me and said, ‘Hey, I want to start playing with the second unit more, and I knew exactly what that means. More shots …”

“And we had our ups and from that point on. You know what’s funny about our relationship? It was an honest one. I’ll tell you that. It’s probably why I’m doing TV,” Rivers ended with a laugh.

Rivers then expounded on what it was like coaching Harden and Ben Simmons, and which player frustrated him more. 

“Maybe James, only because James can,” Rivers said. “When he did, we were great. Ben was frustrating in a whole different way … I didn’t have the frustration with Ben thinking if Ben did this we could win it.”

Rivers firmly believes a locked-in and unselfish Harden could’ve led the Sixers to the NBA championship alongside reigning MVP Joel Embiid. While possible, Harden and Embiid often came up in big playoff games, and with them no longer teammates we’ll never know.

Sixers Looking To Future

With Harden out of the picture, the focus shifts to rising fourth-year guard Tyrese Maxey, and let’s just say he hasn’t disappointed to begin the season. In three games the dynamic former Kentucky standout is averaging 30.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists on 50 percent shooting. Maxey is even blistering the nets from deep, shooting a spicy 56 percent. 

He’s now the No. 2 option and someone first-year head coach Nick Nurse can lean on, as well as someone Rivers admired when he was the coach. 

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