Doc Rivers Reveals 5-Word Reason for Giving Jalen McDaniels First Sixers Start

Doc Rivers Philadelphia 76ers

Getty Head coach Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers.

While eyes and attentions have likely been laser-focused on Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey lately, trade-deadline acquisition Jalen McDaniels is quietly putting together a series of strong performances.

Against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, McDaniels stepped up when injuries struck both Tobias Harris and PJ Tucker. He posted a +14 net rating during his 20 minutes on the floor for Philadelphia, scoring eight points on the night, tied for his Sixers career-high.

But he blew every other Sixers career record out of the water against the Pacers Monday night. He earned his first start for the red, white, and blue, pouring in 20 points and nabbing eight rebounds in Indy.

After the game, head coach Doc Rivers explained what makes McDaniels so special, shedding light into his decision to start the former Charlotte Hornets wing.

“He’s just up for it,” coach Doc Rivers told reporters after the win, per Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire. “He really is. He’s a baller. He’s just up for the challenge, enjoys it, you can see the pressure is nothing. He just wants to play. He likes playing and he likes competition. That’s been really good for us.”

Since acquiring McDaniels at the deadline, the Sixers are 8-3, with crucial wins over the Bucks, Heat, and Cavaliers over that stretch.

Rivers: McDaniels Settling in With Star Teammates

The Sixers offer by far the best supporting cast around McDaniels since the wing entered the NBA in 2019. The Hornets have been rudderless for years, though they boast promising young guard LaMelo Ball.

But McDaniels has also never played on a team expected to win like the Sixers. With James Harden likely facing a free-agency decision this summer, the Sixers are one of the league’s most urgent win-now teams.

The spotlight hasn’t been too bright for McDaniels so far. Rivers went on to explain how McDaniels has been settling into his new environment and acclimating to his new teammates.

“It’s funny, they recognize what he can do,” Rivers added. “James (Harden) hit him on a long court pass. James hit him on one of those undercuts. They’re starting to look for him because they know he can catch. They know he can finish so it’s been pretty good for him.”

While not the most prolific three-point shooter (he owns a career 32% from deep), his finishing and movement have been welcome signs after years of Matisse Thybulle‘s stagnant play on offense.

Harris and Tucker Likely Back for Sixers Tuesday

While McDaniels stepped into the starting lineup on Monday, there’s no way around the fact that Philadelphia was shorthanded, with starters Harris and Tucker both out with injuries.

According to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, both Harris and Tucker are slated to return Tuesday night against the Timberwolves, putting Mcdaniels’ spot as a starter in jeopardy.

Both players’ returns will be warmly welcomed, given the T-Wolves matchup is the back end of a back-to-back.

But McDaniels also proved that he deserves and can handle more playing time with the Sixers. That gives Rivers added flexibility in easing Harris and Tucker back to the team following their injuries.