What did you expect? Of course Daryl Morey came out in his introductory press conference and said his two stars — Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons — can play together (hat tip NBC Sports Philadelphia). Doc Rivers, also on the video conference, echoed the same thing.
“I absolutely think they can work together,” Morey said first.
“I have no doubt they can. Again, I haven’t been in the lab with them yet, but I know they can,” Rivers followed. “I think we have to change the narrative. They haven’t won yet, not that they can’t win. The ‘can’t’ should be taken out.”
That is vintage Rivers — he is gifted at building up players’ confidence. Maybe the best example of that in Los Angeles was DeAndre Jordan, who struggled under previous Clippers coaching but was put in the right role by Rivers, gained confidence as Doc praised him at every turn, and became an All-NBA player under Rivers. He can get players to believe.
This backs up the reports that Morey and the 76ers have zero intention of breaking up Embiid and Simmons right now (which will make Sam Hinkie happy). The new front office and coaching staff in Philadelphia are going to look to make this work. Embiid is one of the elite centers in the game, a defensive force that makes Philadelphia tough to score against and on the other end can score points both around the rim and occasionally from three. Simmons attacks the rim as well as anyone, is a gifted passer, and also is an elite defender. There are holes in their games (Simmons’ shooting being the big one) and questions of fit, but it is too hard to get elite talent in this league. Give Rivers a chance, and change the roster around them to fit better.
Don’t expect Morey to force square pegs into round holes — he’s not going to try and play small and shoot a historic number of threes with Embiid and Simmons.
“The goal is not to shoot three-pointers, the goal is to win,” Morey said. “You can score on offense in a bunch of different ways. Joel happens to be one of the most efficient post-up players in the league. I used to get the question in Houston of, ‘What would you do if you had (Shaquille O’Neal)?’ And my answer was, ‘I would give Shaq the ball about a hundred times a game.’ Joel is a talent on both ends.
“And again, we played the way we played in Houston because that was the best way to utilize the talents we had in Houston. Doc knows how to win more than me — he’s at least one ring ahead of me — and so he’s going to figure out how best to use them. It doesn’t have to be a three.”
Expect more threes and more shooting around Embiid and Simmons before Morey is done. Just don’t expect a radical overhaul from Day 1. The Sixers are going to try to make this work.