Five takeaways from Doc Rivers’ introductory press conference

NBA: FEB 03 Spurs at Clippers
LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 03: LA Clippers head coach Doc Rivers yells during the NBA regular season basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

It took less than a heartbeat for Doc Rivers to be plucked from the market of available Head Coaches. The Sixers unveiled Rivers as Brett Brown’s replacement last week and he met with the media on Monday for the first time. Here are some quick takeaways.

Ben and Joel

The Elephant in the room was always going to be how Doc Rivers intends to use Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Would he split the pairing up? Will Ben Simmons stay at PF, and will Rivers be able to squeeze a three-point shot out of him? When asked about the future for the Process starlets, not much was revealed other than his admiration for the two and an intent to keep them together.

“They’ve won 65% of the games they’ve played in. It clearly works when they play together. I don’t get lost in what position guys play. I don’t care how we score. My teams have always been very good offensively. We have Ben, Joel, Tobias, Shake, Josh. This team is loaded with talent. We just have to work out how to use it the best.”

This probably comes as a breath of fresh air to many, but it looks as though both Ben and Joel are here to stay for the time being, despite rabid trade speculation after a playoff heartbreak.

Why Doc Rivers chose Philly

Doc Rivers was relieved of his duties with the Clippers after a seven-season run ended in a 3-1 series lead being choked away. Many thought that the Basketball vet would take some time out, but all it took was one call to convince him to get back on the horse.

” I was not just gonna coach anybody. I was ready to take a break. It depended on the team that was available, if they were ready to win and excited me. When Elton called, it was an easy ‘get on the plane and take a look’ for me. When you look at the young players on this roster and the places they can go, for me this was a job I couldn’t turn down.”

It’s great to hear Rivers mention the young talent Philly has. With players like Matisse Thybulle and Shake Milton growing rapidly behind the stars at the top of the roster, this team absolutely needs someone who can bring the best out of them and their new hire seems intent on doing exactly that.

At the center of it all

Of course, the man in the middle is the generationally gifted Joel Embiid. The 7-footer averaged 23 points per game this season, carrying an injury depleted roster and earning all-star recognition in the process. That’s not lost on Doc Rivers.

“Joel is an amazing talent. Having coached Kevin Garnett and different guys, there are so many different levels of bigs. That’s changed in this generation even more. They’re out shooting 3’s and running the offenses in some teams. I think Joel can do all of those things. Watching him on film is exciting. I think he’s a dominant big man and will be a dominant big man for me.”

What about Al?

Al Horford’s contract might go down as one of the most disappointing ion Philadelphia sports history. Rivers has only been in town for a short amount of time and was asked instantly if the former Celtics big-man had a reasonable chance of sharing the court with Embiid next season.

“They have to play together. I can’t tell you what my starting lineup is going to be on the first day of my job. There will be a lot of lineups we put out on the floor, but we’ll keep working at it until we get the right lineup.”

His response was candid. Obviously, he’s not going to throw Horford to the Lions right away or disclose any behind-the-scenes discussions. But he very much set an assertive tone of “oh it’s gonna work”, which is going to end one of two ways. If it doesn’t work though, it didn’t seem like Rivers was keen on waiting on if’s, but’s, and maybe’s.

Doc Rivers and Tobias Harris reunite

One player hotly discussed this offseason has been Tobias Harris. The Sixers paid him a hefty $180M contract last offseason which has immediately elevated the expectations of fans.

Harris actually spent 87 games under Rivers, where the duo helped the Clippers to a 48-34 record. Led by Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, and Lou Williams they managed to win two games in the first round (against the eventual champion Golden State Warriors) before being sent home.

Now, the pair reunite.

“I loved him. I loved coaching him. I like that he’s a multi-positional player. He’s a big 3, a quick 4. We kept moving him back and forth. I love his shot, he’s got a great in-between game which is sometimes lost in today’s game. He’s a terrific straight-line driver. You have to put him in a position for him to do that. I’m really looking forward to working with him again. “

Can the Doc provide the remedy for Tobias, who has fallen short of the mark in Philadelphia? if anybody knows, it’s Rivers!

Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire