After tying their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Miami Heat at two games apiece, the Philadelphia 76ers came out punchless and dropped the next two games, games that weren’t even close.
It immediately brought up the speculation that head coach Doc Rivers would be fired by general manager Daryl Morey, which is something that has been rumored for a while.
Just hours after the Heat sent Philly home for the summer, Morey said that Rivers isn’t going anywhere.
Daryl Morey says Doc Rivers will be back as coach next season.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) May 13, 2022
Even if the Sixers end up firing Rivers later on and replacing him with another established NBA head coach, it would not solve their problem.
Rather, their problems run deeper than whoever is holding a clipboard on their bench.
The Roster Needs An Overhaul
On paper, Philly has one of the better rosters in pro basketball, and one would think that it would give the team a real shot at competing for championships.
In Joel Embiid, the Sixers have arguably the best true center in the NBA, and even if Nikola Jokic is better than him, as the voters for the MVP award feel, Embiid is still a truly dominant and one-of-a-kind player.
He led the league in scoring this season, and his offensive game is a little bit of Hakeem Olajuwon based on a foundation of Moses Malone, the late Hall of Fame big man who led the Sixers to their last world championship in 1983.
Joel Embiid put on quite a performance this season 🎭
🎭 First international-born player to lead the NBA in scoring
🎭 First center to average 30 PPG in 40 years
🎭 Finished second in MVP voting pic.twitter.com/Bis0bVmrnJ
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 13, 2022
Embiid deserves plenty of credit for getting himself in better shape and going from a merely great player to a truly dominant one, but his play in the playoffs has still left something to be desired.
After looking dominant at times in the first round versus the Toronto Raptors, his high-water mark against Miami was Game 4 when he had 24 points and 11 rebounds.
Those numbers are good, but still underwhelming for a man of Embiid’s talent and skill.
When Philly needed Embiid to be his best self, or something close to it, in Game 5 and Game 6, he seemed disengaged and lacking in aggression.
Then there’s the case of James Harden.
But this season, he was unable to hit the broad side of a barn.
In Game 6, Harden took just nine shots all game, which continued a long trend of bad performances in elimination games over the years.
It is axiomatic that teams take on the personality of their best players, and the personality of Embiid and especially Harden in big games simply won’t get it done.
Big Moves May Need To Be Made
Some have speculated that Harden’s struggles this season were caused by the aftereffects of a hamstring injury he suffered last spring.
At age 32, that sounds very concerning, and it may lead one to think that he will never be an All-Star level player again.
The Sixers need to trade Harden and get what they can for him while filling out the roster with players who have fight and toughness, the very qualities that Philadelphians most associate themselves with.