It seems like any close Sixers game these days inevitably leads to a discussion over whether Doc Rivers is the right coach for this team; that was the case after the Sixers lost to the Bucks in dramatic fashion on Tuesday.
The end-of-game play calls left a bit to be desired, and then in his post-game press conference Joel Embiid had a sound byte that sounded mildly critical of Rivers:
"I was on the bench. The whole time that I was on the floor, I really made sure that I was always there to help. I thought we didn’t follow that strategy, we didn’t build a wall, and he had a lot of free lanes to just attack and get whatever he wanted. And that just changed the game. Maybe next time just match up the minutes."
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A critique of coaching decisions is somewhat spicy, but also a guy like Embiid is just speaking honestly here. I'm sure there was very little malice, if any.
That said... it sounds like there might be a little more Rivers questioning going on throughout the locker room.
The Ringer's Wosny Lambre dropped a little inside knowledge on the most recent Ringer NBA Show podcast this week, where he warned of juuuuust a little unrest in Sixers land with respect to Rivers.
(Lambre also warned "aggregators" to "relax" before he dropped this intel. I will, of course, never relax.)
Here's what Lambre had to say:
"A few weeks ago - because I'm decently tapped-in with the players side of what's happening with the Sixers, though I don't know anybody in the Morey administration - I'm hearing like, 'Man, guys are not feeling Doc. His rotations, his philosophy, what he's doing. Guys aren't feeling it.' To me sometimes you can chalk it up to be like, 'I should be playing more.' That's every NBA player. So I'm like, I'm ignoring this. I'm ignoring this.
"The Sixers are in L.A. last week, I'm out and about getting dinner [...] and I run into somebody who's close to the team. [...] I'm like, 'Sorry but I can't pick you guys to go to the Finals this year.' His response kind of raised my eyebrows: 'Neither would I.' Oh, okay. Maybe that's hyperbole, maybe you're having a bad week, I'm not even thinking about it. But this is a running tally of what's going on down in Philadelphia."
Lambre is right: this could be absolutely nothing other than a player grousing about playing time. Happens all the time. Every NBA player thinks they should be on the floor for 40 minutes a night.
But also... what if this really is a sentiment in certain corners of the Sixers' facility?
I don't know who Lambre knows around the team. I do know that, if Rivers doesn't get this team past the second round once again, there are going to be some questions that need answering.
Through 147 games as the Sixers' head coach, Rivers has a 95-52 regular season record. His team led the East last year and is within spitting distance of the No. 1 seed once again. That's good stuff! And yet it feels like he has rarely maximized the talent level on this team in his two years in charge, his rotations and decisions are regularly a point of frustration with observers, and now it's not clear if he has the ear of the whole locker room.
Is Rivers... on the hot seat?
Eh, probably not. I'd be shocked if he's not back next year, barring some kind of first-round flameout that isn't at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets.
But I wouldn't say Rivers is the most comfortable head coach in the league, either. We'll see what the next couple pivotal months bring.