The Philadelphia 76ers are having fun, like noticeably having fun. Genuine smiles have been permanently slapped on player’s faces ever since James Harden arrived. Two games, 48 minutes, 23.5-point average margin of victory.
Everything is humming for Doc Rivers, especially the chemistry on and off the court. There has been a natural synergy, nothing that seems fake or manufactured. The latter seemed to be the case during Harden’s ill-fated tenure in Brooklyn.
“I think everyone’s willing,” Rivers told reporters. “This is not a force together team, this is a want to be together team. You get to do your job, or you have to do your job, there’s a big difference. We get to be together, and we want to be together, so I think that’s a good thing.”
Another good thing was debuting Harden on the road. It took the pressure off, plus it made the transition easier since the team was forced to bond. They boarded an airplane together, stayed at hotels in Minnesota and New York, and broke bread at communal meals. Together, 24/7.
“When you make trades, I like doing them at the All-Star break,” Rivers said. “You come back from it a lot of times and you’re on the road, you have one practice on the road, you eat together on the road, you fly into New York on the road and so it’s not a bad thing to happen. This forced together time after the trade is a good thing.”
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Home Sweet Home, Installing the Offense
The Sixers finally saw their own practice floor on Tuesday as the team returned to their Camden fieldhouse. Rivers continues to install the offense for Harden who admitted to only knowing a “couple of plays” after Sunday’s win.
The Sixers spent most of Tuesday’s practice drilling down what to do when the first option breaks down on a play. It was a lot of “skeleton work,” according to Rivers.
“What we did was we made the plays we were running better,” Rivers said. “Now if you take us out of or first option, literally guys don’t know what to do or where to go. And so we went all the way through each option, each play, explained everything we’re looking for. That’s a slow grind, but it’s stuff you have to get through.”
And the one thing that keeps standing out in every drill and on every play is Harden’s passing ability. He just has a keen sense of awareness and how to dribble guys open.
“We all knew how creative of a scorer he was but his passing,” Tobias Harris said. “He’s a really good passer, puts it in your pocket, on time, on target, quick reads. I didn’t know he was that good of a passer.”
Rivers Expecting ‘Nuts’ Atmosphere at Wells Fargo Center
Harden will make his debut in front of the Philly faithful at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The Sixers have been selling out home games regularly but this one is going to be different. Sixers fans gave everyone a sneak preview on Sunday when a small army invaded Madison Square Garden wearing costume beards and firing MVP chants at Joel Embiid.
Quadruple the size of that boisterous group, throw in plenty of beer and a celebrity bell ringer, then add Matt Cord’s grainy vocals to the soundtrack. It’s going to be insane.
“I don’t know, nuts? Is it ever not?,” Rivers said when asked what to expect. “I expect it be louder, crazy, good … but that’s what we are most of the time anyway.”