Sixers rumors: Doc Rivers might be on hot seat

Doc Rivers, Tyrese Maxey, Sixers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Doc Rivers, Tyrese Maxey, Sixers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

The Sixers have opened the season flat and uninspired, jogging out to a 1-4 record that places them near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. It’s too early for true panic, but the complete lack of defensive intensity cannot go unnoticed. The Sixers have been bad at transition defense for essentially the whole of Joel Embiid’s career, but they’re on track to break records with their porous defense right now.

How can this issue remain when Doc Rivers has mentioned it in countless post-game press conferences for the past two years? How have the Sixers only gotten worse? Why is no one trying? Well, some of the blame can (and should) go to the players. Embiid has to be better. James Harden and Tyrese Maxey aren’t getting back to make stops either. Tobias Harris’ defensive presence has been wildly uneven to start the season.

Then, the blame inevitably arrives at the coach’s doorstep. How has no progress been made whatsoever? And moreover, why does the offense look completely scattered and stilted after half a season and training camp to incorporate James Harden?

Is Doc Rivers finally on the hot seat with the Sixers?

According to Zach Lowe of ESPN, there has been some talk league-wide of Rivers’ potentially waning job security.

"“Doc Rivers, Bill Simmons has been saying for weeks on his podcast Doc could be the first coach fired. Certainly people are chattering about that in the league ecosystem, but I don’t know how much that chatter is actually reality and this is Daryl Morey’s team. This is this is the Rockets reunion tour. This is ‘I waited on my long lost love James Harden. I waited and waited and got him back.’ This is it.”"

Lowe made sure to emphasize the lack of clarity around how much of the chatter is “reality,” and how much is mere speculation. But it’s clear front offices around the league are talking about Rivers’ job security. The Sixers entered the season with high expectations. Nothing short of the championship would be truly satisfying, and it’s hard to imagine the team we’re presently watching winning much of anything.

Another important point from Lowe: this is Daryl Morey’s team. He built it according to his own principles, which would explain the overt resemblance to the Houston teams of yesteryear. Morey very notably did not hire Doc Rivers. He has done nothing but praise Rivers over the past two years, but what is said publicly and what is thought privately are seldom one in the same. If Morey fears that Rivers is squandering the Sixers’ championship-caliber team (join the club), it would not be wholly shocking to see Rivers get the boot.

Now, there are of course other factors at play. Ownership paid Rivers a lot of money and he’s still under contract through 2024-25. Is ownership willing to swallow that much dead money to change coaches mid-season? And how much does a mid-season change guarantee? Are Dave Joerger, Dan Burke, or Sam Cassell leading the Sixers to a title?

Also, the Sixers are straight-up not firing the coach unless Joel Embiid and James Harden are on board. There’s no way of gauging the support Rivers has in the locker room, but Philadelphia won’t make any major moves without the stamp of approval from its cornerstone players.

Odds are Rivers won’t get fired any time soon, but if the Sixers’ early-season struggles continue… it could happen eventually. The Sixers need to win games at some point and there’s very little margin for error considering Embiid’s injury history and Harden’s advancing age.

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