It’s a good thing for Doc Rivers and the Philadelphia 76ers that the Philadelphia Eagles are undefeated and the Philadelphia Phillies are in the World Series. If it wasn’t for that, there would be even more heat on him and the team that is 1-4 through five games and looks disinterested and uninspired.
Philadelphia fans were booing their MVP Joel Embiid in the home opener, Rivers is imploring the team to run but they are dead last in pace. And their transition defense is atrocious, 29th in league. Add in an overall 23rd ranked defense and you see the problem.
Last year Rivers and the 76ers had the Ben Simmons fiasco having over their head and by the time they traded him to the Brooklyn Nets for James Harden, it was too late for the team to develop their identity.
There’s no Simmons around to blame this year.
Steve Nash and Doc Rivers competing to see who gets fired first.
— Michael K-B (@therealmikekb) October 27, 2022
Harden is still a very good player, but he’s no longer the MVP level player he was in Houston with the Rockets. He needs to be a 20 point per game scorer with nine plus assists per game shooting 38% from three, and he needs to be engaged on defense. Nobody is asking him to be an All-Defensive team player, he just can’t be a turnstile.
If Embiid is playing like an MVP, which he hasn’t quite done consistently in these first five games, and Harden is the aforementioned version then they can feature rising star Tyrese Maxey as their number two.
Maxey is the only 76ers player capable of racing down the floor and shooting with extreme accuracy. He’s a blur with the ball and an elite shooter. He shot 42% from three last year. He’s at 38% so far this year, but it’s early and he’s doing it on more volume. Almost two more three’s attempted per game.
Embiid offered a blunt assessment of the team after their latest loss.
“We’re 1-4 so we got a lot of work to do,” Embiid told reporters. “Something is not working. We know what works. Obviously, him and me in the pick and roll is almost unstoppable, but there’s so many ways. It’s not just about us. We gotta get everybody on the same page. We gotta get everybody to play at the same level. I still think the ball is sticking too much. We gotta get the ball moving side to side.”
The team looks disjoined and Embiid making this blunt assessment speaks to the job of Rivers and the coaching staff.
When president of basketball operations Daryl Morey put this team together he was expecting them to compete for a championship. Their window is now.
A team that is eager to prove itself would jump out to a better start than 1-4. Losses to the defensing eastern conference champion Boston Celtics and 2021 NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks are nothing to hang their collective heads about. Those were games they were competitive in. But a loss to the San Antonio Spurs, whom head coach Gregg Popovich began the season saying would not be very good, is not acceptable.
“I think we can win games,” said Rivers. “But we are not going to win multiple games until we play right every night.”
That’s on you isn’t it Doc? You are the head coach.
When the team looks disjointed or the chemistry is off, it’s up to you as a leader to bring the group together and get it back on track. Players will do their part to carry over that message, but it has to begin with Rivers.
TrueHoop’s David Thorpe, a 20 year player development coach, defines leadership as breathing spirit into the hearts and minds of others. Right now the 76ers hearts and minds seem empty and disconnected. Will Doc be able to fill them up? Time will tell.