After losing in the Eastern Conference semifinals for the third consecutive year, Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers has confirmed that he will return to lead the team next season. Despite the disappointment of yet another playoff exit, Rivers is optimistic about the future of the team. He has presided over three seasons of improved records, culminating in 54 victories this campaign, the most Philadelphia has had in any season since 2001. Rivers’ contract has two years left.
Harden Undecided on Future as Free Agency Looms
Sixers guard James Harden has yet to decide on his future after another playoff disappointment. He led the league in assists and helped Joel Embiid win the MVP award, but his form deserted him in the playoffs, shooting just 12-for-55 in the four losses against the Boston Celtics. Harden can either opt into his $35.6 million player option for next season or become an unrestricted free agent. When asked about his summer plans, he simply said, “I haven’t even thought about it.”
Philadelphia had two chances to advance past Boston in the series, leading 83-81 with just under six minutes to go in Game 6 before being outscored 14-3 to close the game. They then lost 112-88 in Game 7, with Boston dominating the third quarter to build an unassailable lead. The defeat means that Rivers now has 10 Game 7 losses as a head coach, twice as many as any other coach in NBA history, with a 6-10 record. He has lost five straight Game 7s.
Despite the disappointment, Embiid praised Rivers’ coaching, saying, “Coach has been fantastic, and he’s done a great job, in my opinion.” Rivers himself was disappointed with the loss, but praised the team’s fighting spirit, saying, “We thought we could still win this series. And that’s something good about our team. I thought overall we were fighters.”
Looking ahead to next season, the Sixers will need to address their playoff shortcomings if they are to take the next step and challenge for the NBA title. For Rivers and Harden, the focus now turns to the offseason and the decisions they will make about their futures.
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