Doc Rivers Addresses Possible Lingering Injury for Sixers Star Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid, Doc Rivers

Getty Sixers head coach Doc Rivers chats with Joel Embiid during a timeout.

Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid committed six turnovers in the season opener. It was uncharacteristically sloppy play for the All-Star center who dropped 26 points on Boston in a losing effort. The Sixers turned the ball over 14 times as a team.

Embiid only averaged 3.1 turnovers per game last season, prompting some to wonder if his surgically-repaired right thumb was bothering him. It’s an interesting theory. And Sixers head coach Doc Rivers addressed it during his pre-game media availability prior to tip-off in the home opener.

“I don’t know. I don’t think so,” Rivers told reporters on October 20. “I had the same injury. It does affect you for a long time, I will say that, especially if he gets hit. Those are still raw nerves, as you can imagine how that feels if anyone touches it or hits it. My guess as a big, he gets hit every game, at least in my day he would. I can say that. But you’re not injured, it’s just painful. I thought a lot of our turnovers, Joel included, was just sloppy. We have to be better with the ball.”


Cleaning Up Bad Turnovers, Fixing Shell Defense

The two biggest problems Rivers saw with his team in the opener were turnovers and shell defense. The Celtics got whatever they wanted offensively – it helps when you’re shooting 56.1% from the field – while watching 14 turnovers lead to a 24-2 Boston advantage in fast-break points. That cannot continue if the Sixers want to win a championship.

“Two things that stood out to me: number one our turnovers, number two our shell defense,” Rivers said. “And this is where real games help. Through preseason, through training camp, we’ve done a terrific job of getting back, getting loaded, and then when the real games start you start getting competitive, you start hugging up on your guy. And Boston did a great job of every time they saw that they attacked him because they knew no one was pulled in.”


Jrue Holiday Compared to Maurice Cheeks

It may surprise a lot of people to hear that Jrue Holiday has only been selected to one All-Star game. That’s pretty crazy considering how much winning basketball he’s been around. Holiday is a true warrior in a league that places a premium on tough guys. He has been named NBA All-Defense four times (first team in 2018 and 2021; second team in 2019 and 2022) while helping the Milwaukee Bucks win the title two years ago.

Despite all of Holiday’s accolades, he often gets overlooked. He’s not flashy. He doesn’t stir the pot. He just plays hard, much like a certain Sixers Hall of Famer named Maurice Cheeks. That’s the player Doc Rivers compared Holiday to.

“I told our guys – and I’m not saying this because we’re in Philadelphia – but I told our guys that he reminds me a lot of Maurice Cheeks, in a lot of ways,” Rivers said. “They both do this thing that very few guards do, they make shots in the middle of a game that you don’t even notice. They both have this ability to stop runs.

“Maruice Cheeks, he’d have eight points in a game, and you would think those were the most important points of the game. A team was making a 6-0 run and Cheeks would just come down and hit a pull-up jump shot and then go back to his own business moving the ball.

“Jrue kind of senses the game very similar, in the same way. And then both of them can play defense. Jrue, defensively, I don’t think he gets enough recognition. I don’t know another guard that does a better job defensively than him.”

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