Another year, another second round exit for the Sixers and their head coach, Doc Rivers. Rivers has led Philadelphia for three seasons now, making it to the playoffs each season but failing to progress past the conference semifinals in any year. In his three seasons in Philadelphia, Rivers has a regular season record of 154-82 (65 percent win rate) and a playoff record of 20-15 (57 percent win rate). When it comes to games when the Sixers had a chance to close out a playoff series in that time, Rivers is just 2-6.
Rivers sat down with reporters after Game 7. The full press conference is available below. Let’s break down some excerpts of what he said.
On if he’ll be back to coach the Sixers next season:
Doc Rivers: “No one’s safe in our business.” He did add that he expects to be this team’s coach next season considering he has years left on his contract. #Sixers— Ky Carlin (@Ky_Carlin) May 14, 2023
Doc Rivers on if he plans on being the coach of the Sixers next year: "Yeah, I think I got two years left."— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) May 14, 2023
This, obviously, is something to watch as the offseason gets underway for the Sixers. With heavy hitters like former Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer and former Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams available, the uncertainty of Rivers’ job security gets a bit more interesting. Those candidates are in addition to internal candidates such as Sam Cassell, who has been an assistant coach in Philadelphia since 2020.
As Ky Carlin referenced, Rivers has two years left on his contract with the Sixers. Whether that will actually play out with Doc at the helm until 2025, however, remains to be seen. Three consecutive second round exits — coaches were fired for a lot less already this season.
On the season overall and Game 7’s effect on it:
“This loss absolutely diminishes what we did this year”— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) May 14, 2023
“I thought we took a step backward tonight”
-Doc Rivers pic.twitter.com/PGYVDO8Gby
The Sixers posted their highest win total this season since 2000-2001 with 54 victories. They swept the Brooklyn Nets in the first round. They have a number of hard-fought, gritty wins from throughout the season that maybe they wouldn’t have last season.
And guess what? No one is going to remember any of that because of it culminating in yet another disappointment. It’s one thing to go down fighting, but to go out the way the Sixers did in Game 7 on Sunday... you’d be hard-pressed to find someone falling back on those minor accomplishments from throughout the year. Doc is right, the team absolutely took a step back, rewinding all the progress made throughout the year, in one fell swoop.
On James Harden in Game 7:
Doc Rivers: “I thought James came to play… James, Jo, me, I know we have to point somewhere, right?”— Adam Aaronson (@SixersAdam) May 14, 2023
Even considering Harden’s return to Philly next season being up in the air, this is a bit much from Rivers. One hardly expects the coach to flatly badmouth his players, but let’s be real. Harden looked scared to shoot, committed five turnovers, and shot just 3-for-11 (1-for-5 from three-point range) in a Game 7. That’s not coming to play. It’s understandable that Rivers is trying to deflect from pointing fingers of blame solely on anyone, but after that performance, maybe some fingers need to be pointed.
On Harden’s future:
Doc Rivers on James Harden moments ago pic.twitter.com/c9331MqJW3— Adam Aaronson (@SixersAdam) May 14, 2023
Again, it’s somewhat fair for Rivers to praise Harden in general as he shifted from a shooting guard to much more of a facilitator role for the Sixers. That being said, phrases like “enjoyed being here” and “at times it wasn’t best for him” doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that Harden will be back for Philadelphia.
Then again, after that playoff performance, some Sixers’ fans might be pleased by that.
On Joel Embiid’s health in the playoffs:
"[Joel Embiid] deserves one shot to be 100% throughout [the playoffs]... I would just love to have him one time where we don't have issues."— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 14, 2023
Doc Rivers speaks on Embiid's injuries during the post season. pic.twitter.com/rvsO4cCzwS
I’m going to end with this one, because I think it’s a problem that a lot of Sixers’ fans have expressed throughout the past few years and especially after this series: excuses and lack of accountability. Injuries unfortunately happen, and they’ve especially been unfortunate for Embiid in his playoff career and his career in general. That being said, injuries are a part of the game, and Embiid seemed somewhat comfortable in playing through it by the end of this series. Game 7 didn’t play out the way it did because of the knee injury to Embiid. It played out that way because, to put simply, one team’s stars showed up, and the other’s didn’t. Not asking Rivers to trash his stars, but a little accountability might have gone a long way for disappointed fans.
As of writing this, Rivers is still the head coach of the Sixers. Whether that will change in the coming weeks and these are his final words at the helm, we will just have to wait and see.