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Daryl Morey dishes on tough Philly fans, Harden’s recent struggles, Maxey’s ascendance, defends Doc

Daryl Morey joined the “Rights to Ricky Sanchez” pod to talk some hoops with Spike and Mike.

Philadelphia 76ers Introduce James Harden

Sixers President Daryl Morey has somehow decided to continuously join the “Rights to Ricky Sanchez” pod mostly because he’s a little fearful of hopping on the Liberty Ballers Podcast network. You can’t say you’ve had the full Philly team executive experience until you’ve fielded some heaters from our ruthless LB team.

So maybe the Sixers want to shield Morey from us the same way the Knicks feel a need to shield Leon Rose from the notoriously tough NYC beat, we’ll have to see.

(Joking. Come on our pod Daryl!)

But here were some really fun snippets from a great pod by Spike and Mike, hosting Morey on the Rights to Ricky Sanchez pod for a third time now!

Let’s get to some highlights.

On Sixers fans vs. Houston fans:

“I think the difference is, in Houston there were diehards, but it was micro-sized compared to the Sixers. Sixers diehards are I don’t know, a whole order of magnitude if not two, bigger than Houston. No offense, Houston diehards.”

This theme came up a few times, it came up on a prior pod Morey was on, and it really sounds like he’s felt stymied and frustrated at times with how hard Philly fans can make it on a struggling home player, or scare off a free agent or trade target of his.

Daryl sneaks in how much he loves the passion, and how it reminds him of how he came up as a Cleveland fan, but reading between the lines, it sound as if it’s cost him a trade, or free agent on occasion, (he denies anything major in case you were thinking Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal) and given him some added stress across his tenure here that wasn’t a factor in Houston.

Morey continued:

“There have been players that through their agents have absolutely said that they don’t want to play here and I think it’s by’s a real thing. I got super frightened last year with Tobias [Harris] went through his thing where like the fans were booing him and he seemed to be going down this dark road where he was gonna heel turn and get the whole town to hate’s not something I would have thought about for one microsecond while I was in Houston.... they’re great fans [in Houston] but they’re not this like, I love it, [Philly fans are] like this ride or die ‘if you’re not bringing the full effort I’m going to make life a living hell for you even at the Starbucks until you do it’....I do have to factor it in.”

He keeps saying he loves it but you can hear in his voice he’d probably prefer if fans were just a bit more supportive or positive generally, lol as he admits it can make his job more difficult than he’s used to.

How does he feel about the upcoming year?

“We inside the Sixers like do this ourselves, where we’re just like ‘seems to be going very good but now we’re starting to see is there gonna be an anvil that drops?’ I would say you’d be shocked...there’s a lot of cautious optimism that a lot of the players that were brought in are looking very good.”

Daryl was playfully admitting that there’s an almost ‘too good to be true vibe’ around here lately, and given the team’s super weird past, it’s a breath of fresh air. He noted how well Danuel House and P.J. Tucker have looked already. He sees Tucker as an outlier so isn’t super worried about his age, or “vintage,” as he elegantly puts it.

On the title chase....

“Now the timeline is accelerated I think, absolutely. Look, I think this is the best shot since I’ve been here, let’s go.”

Interesting.... It may not be fair to compare, but the team hosting a Game 7 of round two in 2021 must have had a much better shot probability wise to win a chip than this team now. So he probably means heading into a season when he says this. He estimated that Vegas would give them less than a six percent shot at the crown, but his group internally is more optimistic than that.

“We obviously feel more confident than the [Draft Kings +1500] odds are right now, I like sort of slip streaming into this rather than coming in as the favorite, that’s always slightly better than everyone targeting you.”

I’m assuming he’d much, much rather be the Finals favorite, but this is a good line for when you’re facing more of an uphill battle. There’s something to be said for not being the target everyone gets up for like the Warriors will likely be, but few teams will take Philly lightly this season. He noted there is no buzzsaw like the 2017 Warriors to contend with so he likes his chances with so much parity and no clear superteam.

On Tyrese Maxey’s shocking ascendance

Morey (controversially but not uncharacteristically) admitted he felt Celtics Legend Larry Bird lacked high-end defense, and that would make it difficult for the former three-time MVP to be an all-time great in this era. Morey says he used that example to let Maxey know he’s going to have to pick it up defensively to transcend. He said Maxey wasn’t offended and understood and is working relentlessly on all his weaknesses, including defense.

Morey admitted Tyrese has already crushed their own projections for his development and just continues to impress them. “I’m worried he’s using up all his shot luck [this preseason] ‘cause it’s insane,” he’d joke on ‘Rese’s scorching hot start.

What does winning it all boil down to?

“Our championship comes down to Joel [Embiid] being about what he was the last two years, James being not even 2018 James but just a good James which looks like we have, and Maxey probably needs to take a step forward. That [Maxey] was actually one of the hardest of the three, I thought and it might be happening. It would be amazing if it does.”

I was a little surprised at his phrasing here regarding James Harden. I was sort of hoping he’d say James is going to astonish people with his newfound burst and hamstring health. A bit of tempered expectation on this point was a theme. Hopefully, he’s just keeping our dreams in check. More on this in a bit.

On defending Doc Rivers’ ongoing struggles with our clever and informed Philly Beat

This was one of the most intriguing parts of the interview. Spike Eskin shared an opinion regarding Doc’s well-documented gaffes with the local beat:

“There’s no reason for Doc Rivers to be as dismissive to the press and in one case even basically accusing the guy of like being a racist, or saying something racist, for the couple years he’s been here. For me, he makes it harder on making everyone who asks a question that challenges him feel like an a—hole.”

Here, Spike references the now infamous, “would you ask Pop that question,” specifically, and some other embarrassing public appearances by Doc, more generally.

To his credit, Morey acknowledges these were mistakes by Doc. He praises Doc for helping in free agency by adding “like Montrezl Harrell is here ‘cause of Doc Rivers and Sam Cassell... getting like Montrezl Harrell and having him wanting to be here is a huge factor that people don’t really factor in.”

But regarding the other stuff, Morey didn’t defend Doc much except to say coaches are on the air too much and eventually anyone normal is going to have some slip ups. He added diplomatically “he does a good job of the stuff that matters for winning the title, that’s all I focus on.”

Sigh.... my thoughts on this are a jumble. When the Clippers parted ways with Doc Rivers a few years ago, here was what Ramona Shelburne wrote:

“Doc Rivers has always had a gift for knowing exactly what to say in the toughest situations. But Steve Ballmer said everything he needed to Monday, when he decided that wasn’t enough.”

NBA die hards knew that Doc (again) got out coached in the second round of a winnable series back in 2020. Many of those issues have followed him to Philly. But while he was a media gem in L.A., that wasn’t enough to overcome his deficiencies as an in-playoff-series tactician and leader for Steve Ballmer.

But while many of the in-game foibles have followed Doc to Philly, much of that media charm he used to display hasn’t. At least not nearly as much.

So yeah, it’s probably great that he’s helped recruit Trez, and in the past guys like Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond, Georges Niang, and DeAndre Jordan. The flip side to that is “Doc’s guys” haven’t proven viable second-round talents, so luring them and committing to them is at best a double-edged sword.

Bottom line, Doc needs to be a better playoff coach. Then nobody will care as much about his media slip ups. But it couldn’t hurt as a leader for him to clean those up too.

On how concerned Morey is about James Harden’s explosiveness going to the rim...?

“His biggest change from let’s go two years ago, before the hamstring, is really finishing more than anything... I believe that will be better.... I think it’s still to be determined but everything else is pretty much in range [from his MVP season].”

Morey cited this play from preseason, a blow by on Jarrett Allen, as a positive sign.

But again, on this theme, I detected plenty of tempered expectations regarding a rejuvenated Harden. I don’t get the sense he’s seeing a much quicker version of The Beard in practice yet, giving a modicum of credence to fan observations from preseason:

On the balancing act of maximizing Embiid, Harden and Maxey

This was awesome stuff. In my opinion, they do need to stagger their stars to a degree, and let each of them shine in some perfectly tailored lineups.

“James and Joel work so well together that normally you might want to think about staggering them but we looked at this hard last year and it’s not clear that you should. So then that could work in Maxey’s favor but at the same time James does work really well with like an open floor, and so you sort of want that too and you want Maxey to develop. I don’t think .. look we’re just gonna focus on winning games and the title this year but there’s a ton of variables and I don’t think the answer is clear….”

This is another fascinating subject of who will play where and when and with who. Will Embiid space the floor for Harden? If not, will Harden play without Embiid, surrounded by spot-up shooters? Will Maxey and Harden get all of the non-Embiid run in big games? Doesn’t sound like they know these things for sure yet. So let’s hope they just give us big samples to analyze rather than predetermine it all and then not deviate.

A bit more on that idea.

Levin asked Morey how much should the regular season be about prioritizing wins vs. health vs. playing the way that is the most effective in the playoffs, where previous Sixers teams have proven less effective?

“We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the latter, which is to do the things in the regular season consistently even when they don’t necessarily apply to the team we’re playing such that we are ready for the playoffs more....but...I would say the one that I personally emphasized more is playing closer to playoff basketball as much as possible throughout the regular season.”

That’s great to hear. Fans suffered through months of Ben Simmons-Dwight Howard lineups during the 2021 regular season. In 2022, they got way too much DeAndre Jordan which cost Paul Reed valuable reps. The team has been a step or twelve behind the fan base on items like this. So hopefully they don’t wait until April to start experimenting again.

I won’t spoil much more, go listen for yourselves, it was a great interview.

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