Rumor: Some on Doc Rivers’ staff think Harden was ‘driving force’ behind firing

It felt like the entire city of Philadephia wanted Doc Rivers gone after the Celtics flattened the 76ers in Game 7. However, the rumors of Rivers being on shaky ground started long before that. Rivers looked to be in trouble without a deep playoff run from before the season even tipped off because it was the most obvious card for Daryl Morey to play if the team failed to live up to expectations.

Morey played the card. However, people in Rivers’ camp apparently want to blame James Harden for the firing, reports Jake Fischer at Yahoo Sports.

Sixers president Daryl Morey shouldered responsibility for the decision to remove Rivers during a news conference Wednesday. Several members of Rivers’ staff, sources said, have pointed to All-Star point guard James Harden — whom league personnel are expecting to decline his player option in search of a long-term contract — as a driving force behind Rivers’ departure.

Rumblings that Harden was not Rivers’ biggest supporter (to put it kindly) have been around for a while. Needing to remove Rivers to have any shot at bringing Harden back may have played some role in the decision to move on from the veteran coach, but “driving force” feels like an overstatement. Many factors went into Rivers demise, most prominently that the team never advanced out of the second round with him at the helm (how much of that is Rivers’ fault is up for debate, but coach firings often have little to do with “deserve”). Expectations in Philly were high, the team didn’t live up to them, and the coach paid the price. It’s not exactly a new story.

Fischer also reports that the next coach will likely come from the group of five initially reported as in the running for the job: Mike Budenholzer, Nick Nurse, Monty Williams, Frank Vogel and Sam Cassell. Most people around the league appear to think Williams and Nurse are the frontrunners in that group, but both are also interviewing in Milwaukee and could have interest from other teams as well.

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