Few teams enter April with as much on the line as the Philadelphia 76ers. After failing to make the conference finals during Joel Embiid‘s tenure and yet another disappointing exit to the Miami Heat last year after bringing James Harden on board, it’s safe to say the clock is ticking in Philadelphia.
Sprinkle in the fact that Harden has been continually linked to a reunion with the Houston Rockets this summer and the pressure suddenly ratchets up to a 12 out of ten.
But what could happen if Embiid and Harden do indeed part ways this summer following yet another disappointing playoff exit? This very possibility is why Dan Favale of Bleacher Report noted the Sixers are a team “to monitor” regarding a potential rebuild this summer.
“Rebuilding will be unavoidable if James Harden (player option) leaves over the summer to reunite with the Houston Rockets,” Favale wrote. “The real question: Would Philly be starting over with Joel Embiid, or would he ask for out?”
One week ago, an early Sixers exit seemed laughable. The team was cruising, having ripped off nine straight wins ahead of a crucial road stretch.
Doc Rivers Clarifies James Harden’s Availability for 76ers
But one week later, the Sixers sit having lost two straight on the road against the Warriors and Suns.
Even more worrisome, Harden hasn’t taken the floor for three games as he continues recovering from an Achilles strain. After losing to the Suns, Doc Rivers shed some light on Harden’s availability against the Nuggets on Monday.
“I’m hoping,” Rivers told reporters, per Sports Illustrated. “Again, that’s why we bring guys on the road, but I really don’t know. I was pretty sure he wasn’t playing tonight, but I was actually pretty sure everybody else would, and D. House didn’t play tonight. I really do stay out of that more than you guys think I do.”
Over their last three games, the Sixers rank 20th in offensive rating, 25th in points per game, and 20th in assists. It’s all part of the nosedive Philly’s offense has taken with Harden on the bench.
Nonetheless, Harden is focused on making sure Harden is healthy before throwing him on the floor again.
“As a coach, you just want guys to be healthy,” Rivers finished. “You want them to get healthy, and you don’t want to coach trying to push guys to play, put any pressure on guys. We got to be healthy when it counts. If that means James doesn’t play Monday, I have no qualms with that. We need him back, but we want him back for the long haul. We don’t want him in and out, especially at this point in the season.”
Doc Rivers Calls Out Joel Embiid in 76ers Loss
Harden isn’t the only one who is dealing with an injury. Joel Embiid was limited against the Chicago Bulls last week as he dealt with a lingering calf injury.
And against the Suns on Saturday, Embiid appeared to be feeling the limitations of imperfect health and the second day of a back-to-back.
“I thought he was a little sluggish tonight,” Rivers told reporters about Embiid’s performance, per Sports Illustrated. “He was human.”
To be fair, Embiid still finished with a strong scoreline, a factor Rivers noted.
“I would love to be human and have 28, ten, and four, and that was a bad game for Joel’s standards,” Rivers finished. “He sets a standard when you think about it, and that’s pretty awesome in a lot of ways. I thought they trapped a lot. I thought we didn’t handle those very well as a group.”