What if Doc Rivers is the Sixers’ problem?

James Harden, Doc Rivers, Sixers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
James Harden, Doc Rivers, Sixers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Sixers have something. I’m not quite sure what it is yet, but it’s something. Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey are incredible and have become icons in the City of brotherly love. James Harden seems to have lost weight and committed to this roster. P.J. Tucker, De’Anthony Melton, and Montrezl Harrell are here to add some much-needed toughness and depth.

This team seems poised to make a leap and hopefully take the Eastern Conference by the throat. But what if they can’t? The pieces are there, the depth is in place, and the issues from last season have been addressed. So what would the problem be if the Sixers can’t pull it together?

Who’s to blame for the Sixers’ past failures?

The Sixers got embarrassed by the Heat last season. The media blamed their toughness and lack of care, and rightly so. I wrote a whole piece about the toughness problem and how the team should address it. And surprisingly, Darryl Morey and Co. went out and made changes.

The media and the fans also blamed James Harden, and then James went and lost weight and allegedly worked on his chemistry with this unit.

Besides James and the team’s toughness, who could be at fault for the Sixer’s demise? Who, I wonder, was making the calls to put bad players on the floor, not make the right play calls, not make adjustments, and cost the team an appearance in the third round?

That would be Head Coach Doc Rivers. Doc did not get nearly enough blame for the Sixers’ collapse in June, and I worry that he won’t get the blame if this team can’t reach its ceiling in the early months of the season.

What would an early season failure look like?

The almighty Las Vegas set the Sixers’ win total at over/under 50.5 wins. That’s 1 win more than they had last year after going 49-23. To reach that 50-win benchmark, the team would have to win about 14 of their first 20 games. By Christmas, the team will have played 32 of their 82 games. If they are not 20-10 or better waking up on Christmas morning, I would call that a failure. One that can be recovered from, sure, and that’s what the fans and the team will say. So that’s not a fireable record. But if this team, which has one of the top five players in the NBA in his prime, is not .500 or better on Christmas? That should be the end of the Rivers era in Philly.

Doc Rivers is out of excuses.

Now dear reader, you may be reading this thinking, “Dang Aaron, you must not like Doc. Like at all”. And to that, I say, “Uh… it’s complicated.” Firstly, before I attempt to tear this man’s career apart, we need to acknowledge that he is that; a man. And a good one at that. His work for the Black community cannot be overlooked, and he’s getting nationally recognized for it.

With that out of the way, Doc Rivers is not a championship-caliber coach. The best coaches in the NBA have four main things; great rapport with their players, a good scheme, an understanding of their personnel, and the ability to adjust. That’s the problem, that last one. What adjustments were made when it was clear to all that Deandre Jordan shouldn’t be starting? None. What adjustments were made when it was clear that Isaiah Joe needs more minutes? None. What adjustments were made when Jimmy Butler and the Heat could score at will for every loose ball and simply out-hustled the Sixers? None.

Others may say, “But Aaron, he won a ring!” Yes, he did. And to do that, he needed an All-Star point guard, a Hall of Fame Forward, and possibly the greatest defender in the history of the sport. And now, he has a Hall of Fame center, a Hall of Fame point guard, and an all-star-level combo guard. Doc is out of excuses. If he can’t bring this team to 50 wins, he needs to be relieved of his duty.

The thing I’m worried about, as a Sixers fan, is too much patience. I mentioned earlier that the Sixers would have to get off to a horrendous start for Doc to be on the hot seat. And because of that, I would presume that the call to fire Doc will fall on deaf ears. But what if it isn’t? What are Daryl and ownership see what I see and turn on that seat heater for Doc. Then it might be time for Dave Joerger, Sam Burke, and Sam Cassell. All three have around equal opportunity if the position was to be opened, and all would be good coaches. That would be up to Daryl.

Is anything going to come of this conversation? Probably not. And hopefully not. Because if the Sixers are winning, then Doc’s seat is safe. But they’re not, it’s time to make a change.

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