The Philadelphia 76ers made a few big changes in the offseason by bringing in Doc Rivers as their new head coach and the huge additions they made on the floor to help the team on offense. It has resulted in a terrific start for them at 6-1 where they have made vast improvements.
The team is at the top of the league in defensive rating at 99.8 and they are whipping the ball around on offense to get the best shot available. That has led to Joel Embiid making big improvements passing out of the double teams and it also has led to Tobias Harris having a terrific start to the season.
The question then now becomes, what is Rivers doing to get the most of this team? Harris has been playing so well lately that he was able to win Eastern Conference Player of the Week so what gives?
“As I’ve touched on it before, I don’t think it’s necessarily me,” said Harris. “I think it’s more what he gets out of the whole group, because I’m the type of player that my game can fall in line and whatever the coaches ask for me, I can get done. What he’s asking of this team is to play right away, move the basketball, play with another, use your teammates, really be a collective group.”
If one takes a look back at Rives’ success with the Los Angeles Clippers, where Harris had his best numbers under Rivers in the past, they have always had success on the offensive end of the floor. Los Angeles ranked in the top 10 in offensive rating in all seven of Rivers’ seasons with the Clippers. His system focuses on ball movement and playing together and that is what is helping Harris and the Sixers flourish on that end.
“That has been something that’s been successful for my game that was successful in LA,” Harris added. “I’d be selfish to say, ‘Hey, this is what Doc is doing for me’. It’s more along of this is what Doc is doing for the whole team as a whole. That’s holding us accountable to playing the right style of basketball and a winning style of what he knows.”
For Rivers, this is simple basketball. When the ball moves, everybody stays engaged, everybody is ready to play and score, and they are working within the fabric of a team.
“I’ve always found it easier to shoot the ball when you’ve touched the ball,” laughed Rivers. “I’ve always thought it’s easier for the players to attack when the ball is moving than when the ball is in one spot. It’s something that we talk about every day, our guys are buying into it.”
The Sixers are ninth in the league in assists right now averaging 25.6 per game and guys are playing for each other at the beginning part of this season. This is cool for now being seven games into the year, but it has to be something that continues as the season goes on.
“I still think there’s flows in a game where you can see it, it stops at times, and that’s probably when you see me up, with my mask off,” Rivers added. “That’s an area that we just can’t stop doing. You have to keep doing it and we have to do it through the season.”
The good thing about this Philadelphia team right now, they do not seem content with just this start.
“I can speak for myself, we have a really good rhythm, right now,” said Harris. “Obviously, it’s a long year, a long season, we got to be able to not be content, continue to work, and get better in different areas, but night after night we have to have that standard. We’re going to play this type of way and this type of basketball going forward, hang our hat on the defensive end, and that will lead us to be a great team.”
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