We haven’t heard too much from Sixers head coach Doc Rivers this offseason. I would imagine he is using his downtime to spend time with family and hit the links (Update: Rivers actually had hip replacement surgery and hasn’t been able to golf this summer. Best wishes for a continued speedy recovery, Doc). So it was interesting to see him pop up on The VC Show with Vince Carter for an hour-long conversation with Carter and Ros Gold-Onwude. The discussion covered a number of Sixers- and NBA-related topics, but we’re going to highlight the bits focused on this past Sixers’ offseason.
On his contact with James Harden this summer, Rivers had this to say:
“Too much. He calls me too much. You can tell him that. He really does, it’s been great. He’s working. He’s working his butt off. I think about nine of the guys were in town last week and they worked out everyday together. Vince, you know, when you start seeing that kind of stuff, that’s the guys, that’s the players getting each other. When you see that, you know that’s a good sign. He works out with our development guys. They report back he’s in great shape. And he’s working his butt off. I saw him about four days ago and he looked great.”
Quick thread of Doc Rivers appearance on the VC show:— ᴀᴄʜ™ (@StepbackAch) August 2, 2022
- Doc on James Harden's offseason communication and current shape ️ pic.twitter.com/Mq7vE6RCMp
Via social media, we’ve seen Harden hanging and working out with Joel Embiid, P.J. Tucker, and Tyrese Maxey, just to name a few. Everybody on the roster definitely seems to be vibing and on the same page heading into next season.
On Harden opting out and signing for less money this season helping the team:
“James did some good stuff this summer for the team, like giving up money. I always laugh at that, you know. And it’s awesome, right, it’s awesome that he did that. And fans always like, ‘Yeah, that’s a great thing to do,’ yet there’s no businessman that would ever give up money for his own, you know. I always laugh at that, like athletes are supposed to, businessmen are not. But James in this case I thought was the perfect thing to do. He knew he was in a tough negotiating position himself from last year. He was honest about that. It’s rare that you get the honesty that you get from him. And then secondly, he was like, ‘Listen, I want to win, how can we do that? How can I use my contract to help us win?’ So it just tells you that, right now, he is in the right place, and we needed him there, honestly, because we would not have been able to do what we did without the help from James this summer.”
- Doc on James Harden taking less money to accommodate some of the new signings pic.twitter.com/2CaOmUonyl— ᴀᴄʜ™ (@StepbackAch) August 2, 2022
The Sixers would not have been able to sign P.J. Tucker without Harden taking less money. They might have used part of the taxpayer mid-level exception to acquire Danuel House, Jr., but they needed the full non-taxpayer MLE for Tucker. Since Tucker was a clear target for the team, and someone Embiid had openly suggested bringing into the fold, James definitely did the organization a solid.
On the new additions to the roster bringing toughness:
“Not only getting P.J. Tucker, I think one of the moves that people aren’t looking at is De’Anthony Melton. I love the kid. I think he fits our DNA. And I was honest with our team and our organization after the season. We weren’t good enough to beat Miami. They were tougher. They were more bought in. And we needed to add some toughness to our team. Getting P.J. obviously handles a lot of that, but De’Anthony Melton is the same DNA as that as well. So we needed that on this team, and he can make shots, he can shoot the ball. And playing with Joel and James, the fact that you can make threes and make plays is gonna be huge for us.”
- Doc on adding PJ Tucker & Melton and some thoughts on the Heat series ⛹️ pic.twitter.com/euVGJBXCJ0— ᴀᴄʜ™ (@StepbackAch) August 2, 2022
Toughness was certainly the key buzzword for the Sixers this offseason, and anyone that watched Games 5 and 6 against Miami would be hard-pressed to disagree. Tucker, Melton, and House all fit the mold, in addition to being effective two-way players.
On handling the tampering allegations from the league:
“You handle it, because it’s not true. Honestly, when James did this and said this, first of all, we didn’t know what we were going to do with the money we were getting. Listen, James won too. James could have opted into a one-year deal. Instead, we gave him three years. [Note: Harden actually signed a two-year deal with a second-year player option.] And so both parties won in a lot of ways. You know, listen, it worked out for us, it worked out for James. I guarantee you Daryl [Morey] had no idea what James was gonna do. I remember talking to him on the eve of when James could opt in or out, and he’s like, ‘We got five hours left.’ I mean, that was Daryl Morey, so that tells you, he had no idea.”
- Doc on the tampering allegations surrounding Harden's new deal pic.twitter.com/imusDCjgIo— ᴀᴄʜ™ (@StepbackAch) August 2, 2022
I doubt the league can do anything about the Harden end of things, because James does get the security of the second-year player option out of this whole situation. I find it more likely the Sixers get the now-standard second-round pick slap on the wrist for the Tucker signing being heavily reported well before free agency started. It’s dumb, because everyone in the league is talking to players ahead of time, but it seems like you just have to keep things zipped up tight in-house and maintain plausible deniability to avoid the ire of the league office.
My main takeaway from this interview is that the vibes continue to be outstanding for the Sixers this offseason. Be sure to listen to the full hour-long episode which dives into a host of other topics: