Doc Rivers

Sixers Notes: Simmons, Rivers, Morey, Curry

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers defended the way he uses Ben Simmons after the team dropped Game 5 against the Hawks Wednesday night, writes Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

Philadelphia had a massive meltdown as a 26-point lead slipped away, and Simmons played a significant role, missing key free throws down the stretch and shooting just 4-of-14 from the line for the game. After talking about the need to be more aggressive, he took just four shots from the field Wednesday, finishing with eight points and nine assists.

Simmons is a miserable 22-of-67 on foul shots during the playoffs, and Atlanta has been taking advantage by intentionally fouling him. As a result, Rivers had to sit Simmons down for several important possessions late in the fourth quarter. That takes the Sixers’ best passer and defender off the court and leaves the team with unfamiliar lineups.

“Do you want to do that?” Rivers said. “The answer would be no. But, you know, when Ben makes ’em, we get to keep him in, when he doesn’t, we can’t. And that’s just the way it is.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • Rivers and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey both deserve blame for some of the team’s flaws that are being exposed this series, Bodner adds. Rivers continues to give important minutes to a reserve unit that hasn’t been effective, Bodner notes, while Morey failed to find an alternative backup center to Dwight Howard, who is a bad matchup against spread offenses.
  • The Sixers, who also blew an 18-point lead in Game 4, are searching for answers on why they can’t hold on to a big advantage, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Tobias Harris believes the team loses focus once it gets in front by a comfortable margin. “The weakness right now is when we gain those leads, we kind of go away from what got us there,” Harris said. “That was playing defense, moving the basketball, getting some good looks. And that’s hurt us the last two games.”
  • Seth Curry never lost confidence in his shot, even as he struggled to find a place in the NBA, writes Alex Kennedy of Basketball News. Curry had one of the best games of his career Wednesday, posting 36 points, three rebounds, seven three-pointers and two steals in the Game 5 loss.

Clippers Notes: Rivers, George, Batum, Ibaka

This year’s condensed season offered little time to rest between games and was played under the threat of pandemic postponements, but the consensus among players and coaches is that it was much easier than the restart last summer in Orlando, writes Mark Medina of USA Today. Former Clippers coach Doc Rivers called it “1,000 times worse” to be stuck for weeks at the Disney World complex.

“Half the players didn’t want to be there,” said Rivers, whose L.A. team squandered a 3-1 lead in the second round last year. “The bubble almost depended on the teams that committed to being there and teams that didn’t. I had a team that obviously was not happy with being in the bubble.”

Clippers forward Paul George spoke for most of the players when he talked about the difficulties of being confined to a strange environment. Players had to remain on a limited portion of the Disney campus and had little contact with the outside world for fear of bringing COVID-19 into the environment.

“This year has been easier because I have outlets,” George said. “I’m able to live a normal life. I can go home. I can see my family, spend time with my family and interact with people outside of this team. That alone has been a big difference to be back to some normalcy.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The Clippers are facing a 2-0 series deficit just as they did in the first round, but the Jazz may be tougher to overcome, suggests Mark Medina of USA Today. No team has ever been able to climb out of multiple 0-2 holes in the same postseason, and the top-seeded Jazz are a much deeper team than the Mavericks squad that L.A. defeated in the first round. “They weren’t ranked No. 1 in the West for no reason. This is a tough team. But we’re approaching this the same way Dallas was,” George said. “As good as they’re playing and as tough as this matchup is, we still feel like there’s moments throughout this game and this series that we’re making plays that are self inflicted. It’s a lot of uphill. But we’re optimistic that we can get this under control.”
  • For tonight’s Game 3, the Clippers are reverting to the smaller lineup that was successful against Dallas, tweets Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Nicolas Batum was back in the starting five, with Ivica Zubac coming off the bench.
  • In case you missed it, Serge Ibaka will miss the rest of the playoffs after undergoing season-ending surgery on his back.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Wiz Series, Wells Fargo Center, Doc

All-Star Sixers center Joel Embiid showed off his MVP-caliber bona fides with his play in Game 3 of Philadelphia’s first-round series against the Wizards, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Embiid scored his efficient 36 points in a variety of ways. He shot 14-of-18 from the floor and 3-of-4 from deep.

“Joel is a special talent,” Wizards All-Star swingman Bradley Beal acknowledged. “He plays like a guard, it’s kind of crazy.” The Sixers won in resounding fashion: the final score was 132-103.

There’s more out of the City of Brotherly Love:

  • The Sixers are exploiting a notable size advantage in their series against the Wizards, observes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sixers reserve center Dwight Howard assessed his current team’s vertical edge against his former club. “I just think that the lineup we present with Joel being 7’2″, 300 [pounds is imposing],” Howard said. “We got some big guards. In our second unit, I’m a little bit undersized [6’10”] as a center, but I like the way we are set up.” The Wizards added 6’10” power forward Davis Bertans to their starting lineup and subtracted 6’1″ guard Raul Neto in an effort to counteract the size of the Sixers.
  • The Sixers will return to full fan capacity for their home floor, Wells Fargo Arena, on June 2, tweets Derek Bodner of The Athletic. Bodner adds that the previously-projected return date for full crowd attendance was June 11.
  • After striving to keep a Celtics superstar core happy en route to the 2008 title, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers has thus far appeared up to the task in Philadelphia, too, says Mike Sielski of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sielski notes that Rivers and his staff’s strategy has been to bring out the best from their top player, Embiid, while accentuating the skillset of ancillary star point guard Ben Simmons. “You just communicate it to them,” Rivers said. “But everyone doesn’t have it. A lot of guys want to play the way they play, no matter what. In my opinion, that eventually doesn’t work. If everybody on every team got to play the exact same way that they only wanted to play, I don’t know if you can win that way. It’s tough.”

Atlantic Notes: Payton, Celtics, Barrett, Rivers

The Knicks still have some doubters to prove wrong in the playoffs this year, according to guard Elfrid Payton, as relayed by Alex Kennedy of BasketballNews.com. Payton, who started 63 games for New York this season, averaged 10.1 points, 3.2 assists and 23.6 minutes per contest. This will be his first playoff stint.

“I think we match up well against them,” Payton said of the team’s first-round opponents, the Hawks. “They have a lot of weapons over there, a lot of guys who can shoot the three; John Collins is playing well, (Clint) Capela is a force inside and they’ve got a good bench with Lou Will and (Danilo) Gallinari.

“I think we’re just a little bit deeper and a little bit more physical, and that’s going to make it tough for them. As far as the preparation, it’s been crazy. It’s my first playoffs, so… It’s kinda what I expected, but having so much time off, we were able to really dive into a lot of film and a lot of their tendencies.”

Here are some other notes from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • The Celtics are increasing their crowd capacity for Game 3 against the Nets on Friday, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). Boston will be at “near full” capacity for Game 4, which is set to commence next Sunday.
  • Knicks guard RJ Barrett revealed an interesting game plan for guarding Hawks star Trae Young, as Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News details. Barrett believes his team is better off forcing Young to score instead of making plays for his teammates (he averaged 25.3 points and 9.4 assists per game this season).
  • Sixers head coach Doc Rivers has turned his star-studded team into winners, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Rivers holds several years of coaching experience and memorably guided the Celtics to a championship in 2008. He was also named the NBA’s Coach of the Year with Orlando in 2000.

Monty Williams Wins Coaches Association Award

Suns head coach Monty Williams has won the 2020/21 Michael H. Goldberg award, as voted on by the National Basketball Coaches Association, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

This award, introduced in 2017 and named after longtime NBCA executive director Michael H. Goldberg, is voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches, none of whom can vote for himself. However, it isn’t the NBA’s official Coach of the Year award, which is voted on by media members and is represented by the Red Auerbach Trophy. The winner of that award will be announced later in the year.

Williams earned the Coaches Association’s award after leading the Suns to a 51-21 record, good for second in the NBA. The club had the league’s sixth-ranked defense and seventh-ranked offense, Wojnarowski notes.

The Suns, who were 19-63 in 2018/19, became just the fifth team in NBA history to improve by at least 15 games in back-to-back seasons, per Woj. Williams accomplished that feat in his first two years in Phoenix despite dealing with pandemic-shortened seasons, making the feat even more impressive.

According to Wojnarowski, Scott Brooks (Wizards), Michael Malone (Nuggets), Nate McMillan (Hawks), Doc Rivers (Sixers), Quin Snyder (Jazz), and Tom Thibodeau (Knicks) were among the other coaches who received votes.

The previous winners of this award are as follows:

  • 2020: Mike Budenholzer and Billy Donovan
  • 2019: Mike Budenholzer
  • 2018: Dwane Casey
  • 2017: Mike D’Antoni and Erik Spoelstra

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Poirier, Rozier, Trent

Sixers center Joel Embiid feared his season was over when he injured his knee last month, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Embiid landed awkwardly after a dunk and his knee bent backward, causing a hyperextension that forced him to miss 10 games.

“When I got hurt and laying on the floor in Washington, I honestly thought I was done,” he said. “I thought my season was done. You know, the pain, you know how bad it was hurting, I just knew that it was something worse than we saw. (Afterward) I was just crying and asking myself, ‘Why me? Why does it always happen to me?’ When everything seems to be going well for my team and myself, something always has to happen.”

Embiid returned to the court Saturday night, playing 29 minutes and posting 24 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in a win over the Timberwolves. With 23 games remaining, Embiid can still be a strong MVP contender if he avoids any more injuries.

“(Friday) was really the first time I went full court since I got hurt,” he said. “So it’s going to take a while to get back to myself. But my body feels great, obviously game shape is different than how your body feels. But the main thing is my body feels great. I’ve just got to keep putting up these games and these practices and I will be back to where I was before I got hurt.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers coach Doc Rivers refused to respond to comments from Vincent Poirier, who told a French newspaper that Rivers didn’t reach out to him after a trade last week, Pompey adds in a separate story. Poirier was sent to the Knicks, who waived him three days later. “I wish someone had told me, ‘We were wrong. You can’t play with us,’” Poirier said. “I like it when things are straight. The coach didn’t even send a message although I know he sent (one to) others. I’m not asking him to give me compliments, but just a message to wish me good luck.”
  • Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports questions whether the Celtics should have invested in Terry Rozier two years ago instead of signing Kemba Walker. Although Walker got off to a strong start in Boston, he has been slowed by knee issues this season and is still owed $73.6MM over the next two years. Rozier is having a career-best season with the Hornets, averaging 20.3 points per game.
  • Gary Trent Jr. looks like a perfect fit with the Raptors, writes Scott Rafferty of NBA Canada. In five games since being acquired from the Trail Blazers, Trent is scoring 16.8 PPG and shooting 43.2% from three-point range.

Sixers Notes: Hill, Rivers, Embiid, Reed

The Sixers weren’t able to land Kyle Lowry at the trade deadline, but they upgraded their backcourt with the deal that brought George Hill from the Thunder, write Rich Hofmann and Derek Bodner of The Athletic. Philadelphia continued to pursue Lowry even after the Hill trade was complete, according to the authors, but the Raptors weren’t willing to lower their asking price before the deadline arrived.

Hill brings plenty of playoff experience, Hofmann and Bodner point out, and he gives the Sixers another ballhandler and shooter off the bench as well as a capable perimeter defender. He also provides a lot more salary flexibility than Lowry, who will be in line for a sizable contract in free agency. Hill is set to make $10.47MM next season, but only $1.275MM of that is guaranteed. He hasn’t played since having surgery on his right thumb in late January, but president of basketball operations Daryl Morey expects him to be ready soon.

“What I’m trying to do is maximize our chance of winning the title over that (three-to-five year) window, with more weight for this year. So if there’s a move that ups our odds a little bit more this year, but really hurts our odds in the future, then that doesn’t make sense,” Morey said in explaining why he passed on Lowry. “If it’s a move that ups our odds a decent amount, but doesn’t affect our future odds, then that’s a move that looks pretty interesting. And so, I think this move very materially increased our championship odds, and also kept our ones in the future preserved at a very high level. ”

There’s more this morning from Philadelphia:

  • Saturday marked coach Doc Rivers‘ first trip back to Staples Center to face the Clippers, notes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Rivers spent seven years with the franchise and helped guide it through the Donald Sterling controversy in 2014. “I think the franchise was on the brink, if you know what I’m saying,” Rivers said, “not only how we dealt with it. But more that we responded by playing well enough to win a (playoff) series that I thought for the franchise was a must-win series because of what we were going through.”
  • Joel Embiid is making progress in recovering from the bone bruise on his left knee, Bodner tweets. Embiid, who hasn’t played since March 12, has resumed on-court basketball activities and is working on his conditioning.
  • Bodner also offers details (via Twitter) on Paul Reed‘s contract, which was converted to a standard deal this week. The G League Most Valuable Player signed a three-year agreement, but only the rest of this season is guaranteed. Philadelphia used a portion of its mid-level exception to add a third year to the minimum-salary deal.

Atlantic Notes: Nurse, Griffin, Durant, Rivers

After being sidelined for nearly two weeks due to health and safety protocols, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse was cleared to return today and guided the team through practice, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Nurse expects to be back on the sidelines Thursday as Toronto starts the second half of the season against the Hawks. “I feel really rested, rejuvenated and ready to go,” he said (Twitter link).

Nurse doesn’t expect any of his assistant coaches who were also in the protocols to return tomorrow, although he says a couple of them are close. The team probably won’t have a full staff available until sometime next week. Nurse declined to speculate on when the five Raptors players who are in the protocols will be cleared to return (Twitter link).

He also took issue with rumors that the outbreak was caused by improper mask use among the coaching staff, tweets Blake Murphy of The Athletic. “I don’t think anybody would have any idea what they’re talking about,” Nurse said. “… That is a really unfair, very speculative thing to say.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Blake Griffin has joined the Nets, but he won’t make his season debut Thursday night. He is listed as out due to left knee injury management, tweets Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. Griffin practiced with the team today and said his knee feels fine. However, he hasn’t played in nearly a month, so Brooklyn is trying to work him back into game condition (Twitter link). Coach Steve Nash sees Griffin as a “small-ball five” who can hit open three-pointers and help with playmaking (Twitter link).
  • Kevin Durant will also sit out Thursday, marking the 10th straight game he’ll miss since straining his left hamstring last month, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Nash said Durant will have another scan on the hamstring next week (Twitter link). There was bleeding in the last scan, and the team realized that he might miss a month or more (Twitter link). Nash added that the Nets‘ medical staff doesn’t believe the current injury is related to the ruptured Achilles that Durant suffered in 2019 (Twitter link). “He hasn’t played in a month,” Nash said. “So no matter what the scan says, there will still be an appropriate ramp-up time to make sure we put him in a position to finish the season strong.”
  • Sixers coach Doc Rivers missed today’s practice because of illness and it’s uncertain if he’ll be able to coach tomorrow, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Rivers’ condition isn’t related to COVID-19.

Atlantic Notes: Rivers, Ntilikina, Langford, Nets Big Three

New Sixers head coach Doc Rivers deserves a lot of credit for the 18-7 Philadelphia’s current perch as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference standings, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Rivers commands respect in the Sixers locker room due to his championship pedigree and prior success across head coaching stops in Orlando, Boston, and most recently Los Angeles. Sixers center Joel Embiid is enjoying his best season as a pro thus far, averaging career-bests in scoring (29.1 PPG), steals (1.4 SPG), and shooting (.547/.377.855).

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks reserve guard Frank Ntilikina is not traveling with New York for the team’s game against the Wizards tomorrow despite continuing to test negative for the novel coronavirus, according to Ian Begley of SNY. Ntilikina has been held out of team activities since Tuesday after contact tracing determined he had been close to someone who later recorded a positive test for COVID-19.
  • Celtics head coach Brad Stevens indicated in comments today that reserve guard Romeo Langford will not be back with the club until after the NBA All-Star break in March, per Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald (via Twitter). Langford had a right wrist surgery to address torn ligaments in his shooting wrist in September.
  • The Nets still hope to improve the on-court dynamic between their new Big Three of All-Stars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden now that everybody is healthy, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “It’s funny,” head coach Steve Nash noted. “[It’s been] four weeks already, Kevin and [Irving] and James have played 5 ½ games, if you include the Raptors game, together.”

Atlantic Notes: Robinson, Rivers, Siakam, Barrett

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau praised Mitchell Robinson and his confidence, expressing optimism that a rise will come for the 22-year-old center, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes.

Robinson, who was drafted by the Knicks No. 36 overall in 2018, has started in all six of the team’s contests this season. Thibodeau was hesitant to name Robinson as a starter prior to the season, jumpstarting a competition between him and Nerlens Noel.

“Let’s talk about Mitch,” Thibodeau said. “He’s just, every day he’s growing and growing and growing. The way he’s working, studying, preparing for the games. you could see his confidence grow. He’s making multiple effort plays. He’s a hard guy to score over. And he’s really the anchor of the defense back there. And offensively there’s a lot of room for him to grow. He’s putting a lot of time in.”

As for when Robinson could take the next step in his improvement, the veteran coach gave a blunt response: “You guys haven’t seen it yet, but it’s coming.” Robinson has averaged 8.7 points and 7.8 rebounds in 27.8 minutes per game to start the season.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Sixers coach Doc Rivers has inspired others while reaching a new milestone in his career, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Rivers, a former head coach with Orlando, is now 10th on the all-time coaching regular-season wins list, though he remains focused on his current team and not on any career achievements. “I don’t look at what I’m doing, honestly. I’d love to say — I know it means something and I know it means a lot to people, but I just I don’t know,” Rivers said. “I’ve never been able to put myself in that place where I’m thinking about what I’m doing. I think I have fooled myself that I’m really young and I have a whole career to go, and maybe that’s why I don’t, but I do feel like I’ve got a lot to do and so I don’t think about it that often.”
  • Raptors star Pascal Siakam continued his struggles in the team’s 120-116 loss to New Orleans on Saturday, Doug Smith of The Toronto Star writes. Siakam finished with just 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting, fouling out in less than 25 minutes. “He struggled, no doubt about it,” coach Nick Nurse said. “I thought he had a few decent plays and a few good drives in there, but he obviously struggled. Half-count off rhythm there at both ends a little bit, which is getting him in foul trouble and not letting him be able to finish some plays at the offensive end as well.”
  • Knicks guard RJ Barrett vowed to continue shooting despite being in a slump last week, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. Barrett turned his play around on Saturday, giving New York a 25-point performance on 8-of-15 shooting. He also finished with four threes, five rebounds and three assists in 42 minutes.