Doc Rivers

And-Ones: Trade Market, Spain, Coaches, Overtime Elite

Even though we’re only a month into the 2022/23 NBA season, some front offices are “beginning to get itchy trading fingers,” writes Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com, citing league sources. While the in-season trade market often doesn’t heat up until December 15, when most offseason signees become trade-eligible, some clubs may already be looking to make changes, according to executives who spoke to Bulpett.

“Everyone comes into the year having talked themselves into their roster,” one general manager said. “But then we start playing the games and soon enough reality sets in. Some teams shouldn’t read too much into it, because it takes time for guys to get on the same page if you’ve made some changes. But even though it’s crazy, some guys look at the standings and think, ‘Oh, s–t, I better do something.’ … And some of them are going to be under pressure to do something. It’s going to be really interesting to see what happens after December 15.”

Bulpett’s story features some speculation from executives about what struggling or inconsistent teams like the Lakers and Nets might do on the trade market, as well as a suggestion from one exec that clubs’ financial situations will be worth monitoring as the trade deadline nears.

“There could be some interesting players out there as we get deeper into the season, because I think teams are going to be looking to dump salary once it’s clear they’re not in the playoff mix — or maybe in the mix but with no chance to do anything if they get there,” the executive said. “Teams are going to start looking at that luxury tax bill and their record, and the two just aren’t going to mesh.

“Where it could get interesting is if some guys get the idea they need to make a splash to keep their jobs. But I think you’re going to see some owners step in and look at the bottom line. What’s funny is that they may end up saving their GMs from themselves — you know, keep them from doing something stupid.”

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Spain has leapfrogged the United States as the No. 1 national team in FIBA’s men’s basketball rankings, according to a press release. The U.S. had held the top spot in FIBA’s rankings since 2010 and has won the last four Olympic gold medals, but finished seventh in the 2019 World Cup (which Spain won) and third in this year’s AmeriCup.
  • Zach Harper of The Athletic divides the NBA’s 30 coaches into “hot seat” tiers, starting with the ones who definitely aren’t going anywhere – such as Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra – and working his way down to the coaches who might want to keep their LinkedIn profiles up to date — Tom Thibodeau of the Knicks and Doc Rivers of the Sixers are in that final tier.
  • A panel of NBA.com writers weighs in on the biggest surprises of the NBA season to date. Besides obvious choices like the Warriors‘ struggles and the Jazz‘s unexpected early success, the panel singled out the Pacers for their solid start and noted that offensive production has been off the charts in the early going.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic checks in on where Overtime Elite stands heading into its second year, highlighting some of the tweaks the league has made. Among those tweaks? Offering recruits a choice of a scholarship or a salary, allowing them to leave the door open to eventually playing college ball by retaining their amateur status, if they so choose. “The scholarship option (for high-school aged recruits) has been big for us, if not bigger than NIL,” OTE general manager Damien Wilkins said. “Because now we can go out and recruit without restrictions. There’s no real downside.”

Atlantic Notes: Reddish, Simmons, Thomas, Rivers

Forward Cam Reddish is headed to free agency next summer and he’ll be restricted if the Knicks extend a qualifying offer. Reddish is getting a chance to enhance his value, as he’s been inserted into the starting lineup, Peter Botte of the New York Post notes. Reddish played 37 minutes against Boston on Saturday and 29 minutes against Minnesota on Monday.

“It’s been cool, man, it’s been fun. It’s obviously been a journey, and I’m just trying to continue to grind,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’ve done much of anything up to this point, but every single night is a new opportunity to prove myself at both ends of the floor. So I’m just trying to go out there and do that.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets’ Ben Simmons missed four games due to a sore knee and didn’t have much of an impact upon his return, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. He finished with two points, two assists and three rebounds in 16 minutes against Dallas. “I’m my harshest critic, so I think terrible,” Simmons said of his performance. “There’s a place I want to get to. I’ve got to keep working. I’ve got to keep pushing myself.”
  • Cam Thomas has been one of the beneficiaries of Kyrie Irving‘s suspension, Lewis points out in another post. Thomas had previously expressed frustration over his limited role but he has played at least 29 minutes over the past three games. The Nets’ second-year guard has averaged 19 points and four assists in those outings. “It means a lot. It was a rough first two, three weeks of the season for me,” Thomas said. “So for Coach (Jacque Vaughn) to have trust in me to close the game out, and play me a good amount of minutes these last two games, I can’t thank him enough for that.”
  • Doc Rivers doesn’t deserve to be the fall guy for the Sixers’ slow start, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer opines. James Harden is out with a foot injury and Joel Embiid has missed some games, Pompey notes, while free agent acquisition P.J. Tucker hasn’t been the defensive stalwart the team had hoped after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

Sixers Notes: Harden, Rivers, Simmons, Tucker

James Harden had encouraging news for Sixers fans as the team wrapped up its training camp, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Harden put up decent numbers after being acquired from the Nets in February, but he was obviously lacking the explosiveness that made him a perennial MVP candidate in Houston. Harden, who blamed a hamstring injury for slowing him down last season, responded, “It’s getting there” when asked about his current condition.

“We’re playing with a full training camp,” he said. “So there’s times and periods that you have dead legs or rough legs. But those are the times when you’ve just got to push through it, those character things like that.”

The Sixers will need a return of vintage Harden to be contenders in a rugged Eastern Conference. He welcomes the opportunity of a full preseason to learn the team’s system after having a crash course in 21 games after the trade. Harden is accomplished as both a scorer and passer, and he’s figuring out the best ways to bring both skills to the Sixers.

“But now, it’s a little bit more different,” he said. “Different because of the time (this summer) I had off to prepare and get my mind and my body right. And it’s just an opportunity with the new people that we have. And, honestly, just the communication with myself and (coach Doc Rivers) and Joel (Embiid) to know when it’s time for me to be aggressive and for Joel to be aggressive.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • Rivers had little to say about Ben Simmons, who is expected to make his Nets debut tonight in a preseason game against the Sixers, Pompey states in a separate story. Simmons hasn’t played since Philadelphia was eliminated in the 2021 playoffs, and he had a bitter public battle with the organization before being traded to Brooklyn. “We’re focused on the guys that want to be a Philadelphia 76er,” Rivers said when asked about facing Simmons. “We’re not going to focus on anyone that doesn’t want to be one.”
  • Rivers plans to hold out at least three of his starters for tonight’s game, Pompey adds in another piece.
  • One of the focuses in training camp was becoming more aggressive defensively, per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Joel Embiid has said he wants the Sixers to be the league’s best defensive team, and the offseason additions of P.J. Tucker, De’Anthony Melton, Montrezl Harrell and Danuel House were all made with defense in mind. “I know what it takes to get it done on a nightly basis in the league [and] playoffs,” Tucker said. “It’s tough and it comes down, a lot of times, to communication when plays break down on defense. You’ve got to make stuff happen, and it’s by communication. … You set those expectations right now in the preseason.”

Atlantic Notes: Maxey, Rivers, Raptors, Celtics

Tyrese Maxey believes the Sixers‘ offseason additions will turn them into a legitimate title contender, writes Isabella DiAmore of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Veteran forward P.J. Tucker is among the league’s toughest defenders and was part of a championship team in Milwaukee. Danuel House offers similar skills, while De’Anthony Melton brings depth and versatility to the backcourt.

“I think they’ll definitely help us with mental toughness,” Maxey said. “I think they’ll also help with just the physical toughness. The grit and the grind that we need to bring to our team and also, I think guys like P.J., he’s gonna bring the championship mentality. I think we’re really going to appreciate him for that. Training camp and an entire season together is going to be nothing but good things.”

Philadelphia’s prospects will depend heavily on Maxey, who made a huge jump during his second NBA season, averaging 17.5 points, 4.3 assists and 3.2 rebounds in 75 games. The 21-year-old guard has set his sights even higher for 2022/23. 

“I think other people tell me they have confidence in myself that just builds my confidence,” Maxey said. “My confidence comes from just being in the gym, working out every single day, watching film, and then having success on the court, so for (president of basketball operations Daryl) Morey to have confidence in me, and my teammates, as well as the organization, it just makes me want to go out there and give them my all.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Appearing this week on the Vince Carter Show podcast, Sixers coach Doc Rivers said tampering allegations against the team are “not true.” (Hat tip to James Foglio of Basketball Insiders). The NBA is investigating the Sixers for “early contact” with Tucker, as rival teams believed he was certain to sign with Philadelphia before free agency officially opened. The team was able to create cap space to give Tucker a three-year, $33MM contract because James Harden was willing to opt out of his deal and re-sign for less than the max. “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,” Rivers said. “And listen, James won, too, because James could’ve opted into a one-year deal. Instead, we gave him (two) years. And so both parties won in a lot of ways.”
  • Sportsbet has listed the Raptors as the highest-valued sports franchise in Canada, relays Denette Wilford of The Toronto Sun. The nation’s only NBA team is reportedly worth $2.2 billion, a number that has grown by more than 400% over the past decade.
  • In case you missed it, Celtics star Jayson Tatum talks about his successful partnership with Jaylen Brown, and Grant Williams speculates on how it would feel to be included in a Kevin Durant trade.

Atlantic Notes: Grimes, Vonleh, Nurse, Maxey, Rivers

In an effort to upgrade his skills on the ball and as a play-maker, second-year Knicks guard Quentin Grimes trained with four-time NBA All-Star and current University of Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway for a second consecutive offseason, per Zach Braziller of the New York Post (subscription required).

“He’s kind of like a big uncle to me,” Grimes said of Hardaway. “Just took me under his wing and helped me play the point guard position a lot better, because that’s what I was in high school… Last year, they didn’t necessarily need me to do that — got to come in, play extremely hard on defense, knock down shots. I feel like next year my role will be expanded a little bit more. … I’m a scorer, really. I love getting to the mid-range, getting all the way to the rim, getting fouled. I like having an all-around game.”

The 6’5″ shooting guard out of Houston was selected with the No. 25 pick in the 2021 draft. A right kneecap injury and a bout with COVID-19 limited his on-court availability to just 46 contests. In 17.1 MPG, he averaging 6.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.0 APG and 0.7 SPG. As Braziller writes, Grimes shone bright during Summer League in Las Vegas last month, averaging 21.4 PPG on 41% field goal shooting, plus 4.2 RPG and 4.0 APG.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Jared Weiss of The Athletic explores how 2014 lottery pick Noah Vonleh could help the Celtics if he makes the team’s 15-man regular season roster following his training camp audition. Weiss thinks Boston could benefit from Vonleh’s abilities as a screener with some defensive versatility as a post presence. In 339 games played for seven teams, the 26-year-old holds averages of 4.9 PPG and 5.1 RPG. He spent last year with the Shanghai Sharks of the CBA. In terms of NBA action, Vonleh most recently suited up for the Nets during the 2020/21 season.
  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is preparing to juggle the challenge of doling out time for three exciting bench players who are still in early phases of their NBA development, per Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. When it comes allocating rotation minutes for Malachi Flynn, Dalano Banton and Justin Champagnie, Nurse spoke candidly about his approach. “I can envision sitting in front of [media members] a lot here coming up in these press conferences, pre- and post-game, asking me about why he played and why he didn’t,” Nurse said. “I think there will be some serious finessing about it, but it’s turning in my head a little bit and I can see us using a lot of them different ways.”
  • During an appearance on the Vince Carter Show podcast, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers heaped praise on breakout shooting guard Tyrese Maxey (h/t to Adam Herman of NBC Sports Philadelphia for the transcription). “He’s the most impressive young player I’ve ever had, in 21 years of coaching,” Rivers said. “His work ethic, Vince, is beyond belief.” As Herman notes, Rivers has coached All-Stars like Blake Griffin, Al Jefferson, Ben Wallace, and Rajon Rondo in similarly early phases of their NBA careers. Maxey enjoyed an excellent second season in 2021/22. His 17.5 PPG, 4.3 APG, and 3.2 RPG are all almost double his rookie season output.

Atlantic Notes: Sixers, Harden, Rivers, Simmons, Raptors, C’s

The NBA is not only investigating whether the Sixers violated tampering rules prior to free agency but also whether they have a handshake agreement with James Harden after the star guard declined his $47.4MM option and took a pay cut, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps in an appearance on NBA Today (video link).

Harden signed a two-year deal for $68.6MM that includes a player option. The league is concerned whether the Sixers front office, led by president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, already has another agreement in place with Harden regarding a future contract.

The league “could potentially levy a really big penalty” against the Sixers if that occurred, Bontemps said.

On the same show, a clip from The VC (Vince Carter) Show was broadcast in which 76ers coach Doc Rivers denied that the Sixers knew Harden would opt out and re-sign: “I guarantee you that Daryl had no idea what James was going to do.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Rivers also spoke about the Ben Simmons situation, saying that Simmons essentially overreacted to issues he had in Philadelphia (video link). “What frustrated me was that I still think (his issues) shouldn’t have been enough to want to leave,” Rivers said. “I told Ben that and I kept telling him that. That’s not why you want to leave a team. You work these things out and they didn’t get worked out.”
  • Raptors stars Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam could sign lucrative extensions this offseason but will likely to decide to wait, as Eric Koreen of The Athletic explains. VanVleet could sign a four-year contract extension worth approximately $114MM right now but might get more money down the road if he waits and remains productive. Beginning in October, Siakam could sign a three-year extension in excess of $125MM. However, Siakam — who has two years left on his current deal — could also get more by putting extension talks on the backburner.
  • The Celtics are hiring Craig Luschenat as a player development coach, Jared Weiss of The Athletic tweets. Luschenat has been on the staff of the team’s G League affiliate in Maine.

Sixers Rumors: Draft Pick, Maxey, Thybulle, Green, Rivers

Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com has been told it’s “relatively likely” that the Nets will take advantage of their ability to defer their acquisition of the Sixers‘ first-round pick a year and will opt to acquire Philadelphia 2023 first-rounder instead of 2022’s No. 23 overall selection.

The Nets have until June 1 to finalize that decision, so nothing is set in stone yet, but the Sixers are preparing as if they’ll have this year’s No. 23 pick, says Neubeck.

Assuming the 76ers do control that pick, it could be used to add a young, inexpensive draftee to the roster or included in a trade package for a veteran. Neubeck points to Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell and Baylor’s Kendall Brown as long, switchable forwards who may be available at No. 23 and who might appeal to Philadelphia.

Here’s more from Neubeck:

  • Even if the Sixers attempt to pursue another star player this offseason, don’t expect the team to dangle guard Tyrese Maxey to make it happen, says Neubeck. “Maxey is as close to untouchable as you could be,” a source told PhillyVoice.
  • Matisse Thybulle is a more realistic trade candidate, but the Sixers won’t move him just to get off his contract, according to Neubeck, who suggests that Danny Green‘s ACL tear has made Thybulle’s defense even more important to the team. If he’s traded, expect it to be for a roster upgrade, Neubeck writes.
  • No decisions have been made yet on Green, who is expected to miss at least half of next season and whose $10MM salary for 2022/23 is non-guaranteed. Green’s $10MM would have to be partially or fully guaranteed in order for it to count for outgoing salary-matching purposes, so he seems to me more likely to be waived than traded. According to Neubeck, it’s possible that if Green is released, he could eventually return on a smaller salary.
  • There are suspicions in league coaching circles that the Lakers haven’t given up on the idea that Doc Rivers could become available for their head coaching job, Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack article. Neubeck doesn’t dismiss that idea, but observes that the Sixers have been “remarkably consistent” in their messaging – both publicly and privately – that Rivers isn’t going anywhere.

Atlantic Notes: Harden, Rivers, Knicks, Flynn

Sixers guard James Harden was still an elite player in 2021/22, but his numbers began trending in the wrong direction and he appeared to have lost the explosive first step that defined his MVP-caliber seasons, writes Tommy Beer of BasketballNews.com.

With Harden set to turn 33 this summer, giving him a long-term, maximum-salary contract could cripple the Sixers and would be borderline “organizational malpractice,” Beer argues. Still, Philadelphia can’t afford to let him walk, since doing so wouldn’t actually open up any meaningful cap room and the team is under pressure to maximize Joel Embiid‘s prime.

As Beer outlines, it will be fascinating to see how those contract discussions play out this offseason, since both sides have some leverage concerns. The Sixers can’t afford to lose Harden, but it will be difficult for the former MVP to play hardball in negotiations, considering none of the teams projected to have cap room are expected to seriously pursue him.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has made it clear that the plan is for Doc Rivers to remain the head coach going forward, prompting Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com to consider whether that decision is the right one for the franchise.
  • Former Knicks center Eddy Curry has confidence in the abilities of executives Leon Rose and William Wesley to turn things around in New York, writes Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Curry said Knicks fans shouldn’t focus on Rose’s lack of public statements and press conferences, since it’s “not his personality” to be in the public eye. “Regardless of how often you see him, you better believe he’s making things happen behind closed doors,” said Curry, who worked with Rose and Wesley during his playing career.
  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic wonders if Raptors point guard Malachi Flynn could benefit from a change of scenery and identifies some other players in a similar boat whom Toronto could target in a potential Flynn trade, including Aaron Nesmith, Romeo Langford, and Udoka Azubuike.
  • In case you missed it, we rounded up a series of Celtics notes earlier today.

Morey: Doc Rivers Will Return As Sixers’ Head Coach

Asked directly during his end-of-season press conference whether Doc Rivers would be back in 2022/23 as the Sixers‘ head coach, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey provided a simple response, tweets Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com.

“Yes,” Morey said.

Rivers, who was hired by the Sixers during the 2020 offseason, has led the team to a 100-54 (.649) regular season mark in the past two years, but hasn’t gotten out of the second round of the playoffs. Philadelphia lost to the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals a year ago and to Miami in the same round this year.

There had been some speculation that Rivers could be on the hot seat for failing to lead the Sixers to at least the Eastern Finals, since the team had championship aspirations following its deadline deal for James Harden. Additionally, Rivers’ hiring preceded Morey’s arrival, so there was a sense that Philadelphia’s lead basketball executive may want to bring in his own coach.

However, Morey’s response today should quell that speculation for the time being. Prompted to expand on the decision to stick with Rivers, Morey had nothing but praise for the 60-year-old.

“I just think he’s a great coach and I love working with him,” Morey said (Twitter link via Neubeck). “… I think (general manager) Elton (Brand) and I and him make a great team, and we’re going to see where this journey takes us.”

Rivers reportedly still has three years and $24MM left on his contract, so it would have been expensive for team ownership to make a change at this point.

Sixers Notes: Harden, Rivers, Green, Butler, Offseason

It has become clear over the course of the season – and especially in the playoffs – that the current version of James Harden isn’t the same one who earned the MVP award in 2018 with the Rockets, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN, who suggests that recurring hamstring issues over the last couple years have slowed down the Sixers guard.

“Since we got him, everybody expected the Houston James Harden,” Sixers star Joel Embiid said on Thursday, after the team lost Game 6 to the Heat and was eliminated from the postseason. “But that’s not who he is anymore. He’s more of a play-maker.”

While it’s true that Harden is still an elite play-maker, he’s being paid like he’s also an elite scorer, with a $44.3MM salary this season and a $47.4MM player option for 2022/23.

There’s a belief in some league circles that Harden isn’t fully healthy and has bounce-back potential, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. However, according to Bontemps, the soon-to-be 33-year-old is viewed by many executives as more of a $25-30MM per year player than a superstar who should warrant a five-year, $270MM commitment this offseason.

During an ESPN appearance (video link), Amar’e Stoudemire, who saw Harden up close as a member of the Nets’ coaching staff this season, questioned the guard’s conditioning and advised the Sixers against offering a maximum-salary contract.

Harden, who will be eligible for a contract extension if he picks up his player option or a new free agent contract if he turns it down, suggested after Thursday’s loss that he would be open to taking less than his max, and an Eastern Conference scout who spoke to Bontemps said the 76ers would be wise to go that route.

“If there were any logic whatsoever, the answer (to giving him a max deal) would be no,” the scout said.

Here’s more out of Philadelphia:

  • Asked after Thursday’s loss about his job security, head coach Doc Rivers defended his track record, per Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link).I don’t worry about my job,” Rivers said. “I think I do a terrific job. If you don’t, then you should write it. I worked my butt off to get this team here. When I first got here, no one picked us to be anywhere. Again this year, the same thing.”
  • After leaving Game 6 due to a left knee injury, Sixers swingman Danny Green will undergo an MRI to determine the extent of the damage, a source tells Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. There’s “significant concern” that Green’s injury is a serious one, as ESPN’s Tim Bontemps relays.
    [UPDATE: Danny Green Diagnosed With Torn Left ACL, LCL]
  • Having eliminated the 76ers from the postseason, former Sixer Jimmy Butler rubbed salt in the wound, according to Rich Hofmann of The Athletic, who notes that the Heat forward said in his postgame interview he wishes he were still playing with Embiid. On his way to the locker room after the game, Butler also referenced the 2019 offseason, when Philadelphia invested heavily in Tobias Harris as Butler departed for Miami. “Tobias Harris over me?!” Butler yelled, as captured by Miami’s WPLG Local 10 Sports (video link).
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) and Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype both preview the Sixers’ upcoming offseason, examining some of the biggest questions facing the franchise in the coming weeks and months.