Sixers Announce First Starting Lineup with James Harden

James Harden, Doc Rivers

Getty Doc Rivers coached Team Durant at the 2021 NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta.

James Harden will make his Philadelphia 76ers’ debut on Friday at 8 p.m. He’ll wear No. 1 and join the starting five. It’s the rest of the lineup that has everyone scratching their collective heads. What is Doc Rivers thinking?

The Sixers head coach spoke with reporters after shootaround in Minnesota and shed a speck of light on the subject. Rivers wouldn’t reveal the new starting five – Matisse Thybulle and Danny Green are the main candidates for the final spot – but he did confirm that Philly will stick with a nine-man rotation. That means sticking with an all-bench lineup for stretches. And four of the five starters should include Harden, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey.

UPDATE: The Sixers announced the new starting five about 30 minutes prior to tip-off:

Rivers stressed that he doesn’t worry about the starting lineup. He never has. That’s something for the fans and media to debate. He’ll coach the guys on the roster and test different things out, whatever shakes out will shake out.

“Everyone around worries far more about a starting lineup than I do. Starting lineup is the most overblown thing,” Rivers said. “To me, it’s more about the in the game; who you have on the floor during the game, what groups you have on the floor. Especially once you make a trade like this. Our focus has to be right now, on this team, and focus on that.”

Harden’s arrival hasn’t disrupted the locker room chemistry in the least. He’s jumped right in as a mentor to the younger guys and a sounding board for Embiid. Great teammate from Day 1. The hard work is just beginning as the 10-time All-Star attempts to find on-court chemistry amid Rivers’ experimental rotations.

“I don’t think chemistry is going to be an issue as far as getting along,” Rivers said. “On the floor? We’ll have to see how that all works out. I’m not that concerned by it, but there’s two types of chemistry and the one on the floor is going to be the one that matters the most.”

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Rivers Plans to Experiment, Fifth Guy to Rotate

Don’t think Rivers is going into Harden’s debut without a concrete plan for minutes. He has a good one. It entails keeping at least two of James Harden, Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris always on the court together. After that, Rivers is going to let the chips fall where they may. He isn’t scared to throw a new starting five out there every night.

“If we feel like we fall on one that is solid, and you keep it, yeah you keep it,” Rivers told reporters, via Sixers Wire. “But if you don’t, we pretty much know what four guys will be. The fifth guy can rotate. We wouldn’t be the only team that did that. You’ve seen teams do that and win titles so I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

Joel Embiid Calls Harden ‘Great Person’

Harden has a reputation as kind of a bad boy in league circles. The 32-year-old has a penchant for frequenting strip clubs while coming off a nasty breakup from Brooklyn. The Sixers mark his third new team in two years, and his fourth franchise since 2009.

Harden has called each exit justified, citing mutual difference and new opportunities. His teammates in Philly can’t argue after two weeks. It’s all rainbows and unicorns.

“It’s completely different than what you see out there,” Joel Embiid told reporters on Friday, via ESPN. “He’s a great person, a great personality, always smiling, fun to be around. It’s great for us as a team. It sets expectations even higher than they were before, puts a lot of pressure on everybody, so I’m excited.”

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