It should have been just a fun postgame. It definitely could have been. The Sixers got to rest their superstars, James Harden and Joel Embiid, in what amounted to a basically meaningless game vs. the Detroit Pistons. The Sixers wrapped up another 50-win year and locked up home court in round one as a four seed. Joel became the official 2021-2022 NBA scoring leader. The squad got it done against the Detroit Pistons. Let’s go! Onto the Raptors revenge tour.
Tyrese Maxey had 25 points, putting an exclamation point on what has been an unequivocally stellar sophomore season. Maxey shot over 43 percent on four triples per contest all season long. That 43 percent ranks third overall in the entire Flippadelphian league!!! Are you kidding me, Tyrese??
Shake Milton was balling, he dropped 30. And coach Rivers even made some history himself. Keep climbing Doc!
Congrats to @sixers coach Doc Rivers for moving up to 9th on the all-time COACHING WINS list! #NBA75 pic.twitter.com/fQU2fLajb9— NBA (@NBA) April 11, 2022
There’s more great news too.
“BBall” Paul Reed flashed some really high-energy, not-quite-channeled-yet-positive-chaos basketball over the last few games. And it seems like Reed definitively pulled away from the four-roster-spots-used-for-one-backup-big pack. (Shout out Charles Bassey who deserved a shot). At least to most of us.
Paul Reed tonight:— Pick Swap Podcast (@PickSwapPod) April 11, 2022
Out the Mud pic.twitter.com/JrXp1XJVXh
After the 118-106 win in the season finale, Rivers brought up Paul Reed’s name and heaped on some praise.
With a transcript dime from Derek Bodner of The Daily Six Newsletter, a great resource for fans, here’s what Rivers had to say:
“Paul was phenomenal.... Reed did a nice job, obviously rebounding, running the floor, pushing the ball made some good passes today, too. So that was good for us.”
A reporter followed up, on that theme, dialing up the million dollar question. With the way that Reed has played the last couple games do you see yourself maybe leaning-
Doc cut him off.
“Not gonna go in the Paul Reed victory tour. So don’t start. We’re trying to win a world championship, man.”
There were a few audible chuckles from reporters after that line. On social media, however, the Paul Reed victory tour committee volunteers had already greased the polls up with mud the moment the home stadium started literally chanting “BBall Paul.”
Not me tearing up at Sixers fans chanting “BBall Paul.”— Brooklyn (@Brookie425) April 11, 2022
Can’t make it up. Sixers fans are incredible, and know how to celebrate something relatively small like this full tilt. We’ve been waiting for a backup five like this for years and now just in time! No more -19 in three minutes mud! BBALL PAUL! BBALL PAUL!
Paul Reed needs to the backup big vs the Toronto … no way around it— Harrison Sanford (@HarrisonSanford) April 11, 2022
DeAndre just isn’t mobile enough for that matchup. Reed is going to make his mistakes but it won’t be for a lack of ability
He guarded Giannis pretty well this season, series has his name written all over it
Next Doc used a little bit of understatement and/or sarcasm to downplay the subject of the team’s backup five altogether.
“That’s important. Yeah, that’s, that’s huge for us [that Reed played well lately]. But having said that, I got a feeling Joel will be playing more, you know, unless you want us to sit him. You know, so I don’t get caught up in all that stuff.”
This line is eerily reminiscent of the line Doc used a year ago to the day. Rivers was asked last season if Anthony Tolliver would see the floor. “I don’t know about minutes unless you want me to bench Tobias or somebody like that.”
So, literally nobody was suggesting Doc bench Tobias Harris for Anthony Tolliver. Fans (and purportedly Daryl Morey too) hoped Doc would experiment with Tolliver over one of Mike Scott or Dwight Howard. Duh. That was weird. And now it’s weird again to hear him slip in benching Embiid (!!!) for Reed instead of benching let’s say maybe DeAndre Jordan?
But let’s unpack that line. Hmm... so is Doc saying Embiid’s gonna be playing like 45+ minutes per night once the playoffs start? Why wouldn’t he get caught up in all that just cause Joel’s minutes tic up? Is he not familiar with the two minutes that Greg Monroe once played vs. the Toronto Raptors?
If Doc won’t sweat the small stuff, who will? By all means, get caught up!
(Kevin Garnett, under Doc, played 38 minutes in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. The ten KG didn’t play certainly mattered that day).
Above is the exchange between Bodner and Rivers.
So our BBall tour came to a screeching halt. Some condescension from coach Rivers came flying at us fans celebrating Reed’s performance. And in that line Doc said about “trying to win a world championship, man,” it looked to me when I played it back in sloMo, like a few stray flecks of patronizing may have even hit BBall Paul. What’s the point, that Reed can’t help in the championship cause and DeAndre Jordan or Paul Millsap definitely can?
More condescension coming:
Derek Bodner: “Do you regret maybe not playing Paul [Reed] a little bit more earlier in the season to evaluate-”
Doc Rivers: “Let me clarify this one more time for everybody who struggles with this. When there’s a small lineup — I’m gonna say it slow so that we can all pick it up — we’ll play smaller with Paul. When there’s a big five, we play bigger with D.J. Do we all have that now?”
The YouTube link above has a setting where you can slow down the clip in case that wasn’t slow enough for you to understand. Seriously, Doc is coming across as super, super grumpy and defensive. Not a great look for your leader, recently linked to the Jazz and Lakers, heading into the playoffs. Feels like an NFL coach who won a ring decades ago lecturing about wanting to establish the run better next season.
Yeesh. I’m gonna go ahead and assume that Bodner wasn’t confused in the slightest about them preferring DeAndre Jordan in many situations. That’s been made painfully clear.
So the intriguing thing here is that Doc opted to answer the question with a straw man argument. We still got the answer: he doesn’t regret not playing Reed more earlier. But we also got this sort of disingenuous twist that the fans or the media can’t understand something basic. And it was all spun to imply Reed was in recently because of the size of the opponents. But like... if you’re a fan, or even Reed himself, hearing that, all you can think about is the many, many times he did not get an opportunity. Like say, when Paul Millsap got that chance. Or the times Jordan got to play against some smaller guys (like vs. Charlotte just the other week)....
There have been plenty of times when the opponent wasn’t super big and we still didn’t see Paul Reed. Why doesn’t the coaching staff not regret getting him more reps if he’ll be playing vs. Toronto? Or won’t he be playing? Maybe it’ll all be Millsap in round one, in which case why don’t they regret not getting Reed more reps seeing how he performed as of late? Surely they could have helped a good athlete fine-tune. It was even possible to play Reed with Embiid for one or two minutes. Joel can basically buoy any lineup.
In addition to being condescending this is just factually wrong. He just played Paul Reed against the Raptors, Pacers and Pistons…Three teams he sat Paul Reed against within the last month.— Avi Wolfman-Arent (@Avi_WA) April 11, 2022
Did those teams change in size? https://t.co/mh65XtL2Nd
We have more.
Bodner: “Up until the last three games that hasn’t been the case so I’m asking would it have been beneficial to play [Reed] more-”
Rivers: [interrupting] Up until the last three games, look at who we’ve been playing, just look at it, they’ve had big fives in. OK? So against big fives, because of fouling, we like D.J. Do you understand that? We have a whole coaching staff who I’m just gonna guess, knows a little bit more, and they watch every game. They watch every practice. We believe against big fives, D.J. is good for us. We believe against smalls, Paul. Could we play Paul with a big five? Yeah, you could. You may get in foul trouble early in a playoff game, which could swing a game. I’ve been around a long time. Trust that.”
So do with all of that what you will. All he had to do was praise Reed and give a generic non-answer about his playoff rotation, keeping his strategy to himself.
Maybe the good news is that since the Toronto Raptors are a relatively small team it will force Rivers hand to make the optimal decision:
It seems like an oddly reactive way to play based solely on size of opponent and possible foul trouble though. Shouldn’t your best players play?
The Sixers have been accused of worrying too much about foul trouble under Doc. They started Danny Green on Trae Young in Game 1 vs. Atlanta. The 2021 team did that to “save” Ben Simmons from foul trouble occasionally when facing a Young or a James Harden. It probably cost them Game 1.
Days ago, Tyrese Maxey totaled 29 minutes in a huge game because he was benched after picking up his third foul. The probability that Maxey could have totaled 30 or more minutes if given the chance to foul out was highly favorable.
So maybe this Sixers coaching group has a tendency to worry too much about fouls, I don’t know.
What we do know? Doc Rivers doesn’t want to take part in any “Paul Reed is clearly the Sixers’ best option at backup center for whatever brief stint Joel Embiid rests during the playoffs” victory tour. And his reason is because he’s after a world championship. And he has much more experience than you so “trust that.” If this is all some 3-D chess to light a fire under Paul Reed who’ll now play to prove Rivers wrong, it’s some next level stuff. But Reed will need to see the court next round for that tact to pay off.