CAMDEN, NJ — Daryl Morey, Philadelphia 76ers chief of basketball operations, said coach Doc Rivers will return next season for a third year with the franchise.
“I think he’s a great coach,” Morey said during exit interviews Friday after the Sixers were eliminated the night before at home by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. “I love working with him. I feel like I’m learning from him. I think [general manager] Elton [Brand] He and I make a great team, and we’ll see where this journey takes us.
“But we are satisfied with where he is taking us, and we will have a very good chance of winning the title.”
That’s been the goal in each of Philadelphia’s past two seasons, since the Houston Rockets and Rivers’ Morey arrived from the Los Angeles Clippers: to take this team to a level they haven’t reached in a generation. The 76ers haven’t made it past the second round of the playoffs – where they have now lost four times in five years – since reaching the NBA Finals in 2001.
The 76ers haven’t won an NBA championship since 1983.
On Friday, Morey said repeatedly that the 76 players are looking to spend off-season to find ways to “open” Harden, who was frustrated in the playoffs (18.6 points, 8.6 assists), and to clean up fitness alongside the star quarterback. Joel Embiid.
When asked multiple times directly if this means Harden has more levels to reach or if fans should lower their expectations of the former NBA MVP moving forward, Morey brilliantly danced around the question without answering it.
Instead, Morey said he’s looking forward to Rivers and his staff finding ways to use Harden.
“Look, he’s an incredibly talented player,” Morey said. “Just like Joel, just like Tobias [Harris]. And I’m excited to have Doc and his staff all off the season to work with the players and come up with the best plan for our roster. … Uniting it all in February makes it very difficult to try and figure out how to … “unlock” all the different skills of the players and how they can work together.
“We all know he’s a very skilled player, and we’ll find out how to use him.”
Morey also followed Harden’s announcement that he will return to Philadelphia next season, weighing what he will do with his player option this summer.
“That’s the plan, it’s getting him back,” Morey said. “That has been the plan since the trade. Obviously, we have to work with his representative and it will be between us to see how that works.”
Overall, though, it was a bleak mood – as one would expect for a team that bounced back from the playoffs the way it did, with two ugly straight losses to the Heat.
“Well, we’re sick,” Morey said. “We’re here because we have big aspirations. And I know our fans do too… That’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re doing it. So it’s hard for me to be here right now. It’s still emotional.”
“[But] Look, we’re excited about what we can build from here. We think a lot of things we can improve and that’s myself, that’s there [Brand]This is in Coach Rivers. We will find out. But we feel there is a lot to count on.”
While Philadelphia has a solid foundation to build on, simply thanks to Embiid’s presence, there is still a lot of work to be done. Miami star Jimmy Butler He was able to get what he wanted against the 76ers defensively in this series, and perimeter defense has been an ongoing problem throughout the season. Depth was also a problem.
Morey said defense will be the focus, while Rivers echoed Embiid’s comments that the team needs more solidity to move forward.
“Well, I think it’s something players can develop,” Morey said of the lack of mental toughness being a common topic in exit interviews with players. “I mean, going through losses and how do you respond to that and how do you look at it as your own look in the mirror. I think we all need to look in the mirror and say, ‘How can each of us be better?'” “…and this applies to myself as well.”
In the end, though, what the 76ers have done in the past two seasons is no better than what they have done in the previous three years in terms of the extent to which they have been able to advance in the post-season. Advancing the playoffs isn’t easy, Rivers said, and it takes a learning curve from above and below an organization to do so.
“Because winning is hard,” Rivers said. “You just don’t show up and just say, ‘Okay, guys. We’re moving on.” It’s tough. We’re not the only organization. It’s hard to move forward. We had a chance last year, and we didn’t get it done. This year has been tough. I mean, obviously, with all the injuries and stuff, so the answers are easy, it’s tough, we’re there. We get ourselves into the argument, that’s all you can do, and then go back and keep going until you cross the mountain.
“Milwaukee, you look at them, it took me two or three years to get over the mountain. That’s how it works. It’s not foolproof for anyone.”
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