Sixers Coach Doc Rivers Sounds Off on ‘Loner’ Joel Embiid

Doc Rivers, Joel Embiid

Getty Sixers center Joel Embiid has been averaging 34.7 points per game since Christmas.

Dress in a fresh-pressed, clean white Sixers warmup jacket, Doc Rivers looked comfortable on the bench in the preseason opener. Gone was last year’s anguished look, the weight of Ben Simmons removed. Rivers maintained a relaxed smile for 48 minutes of stress-free basketball.

And why shouldn’t he be relaxed? The Sixers are legitimate title contenders behind James Harden and Joel Embiid. While neither player suited up on Monday night, they made the trip to Brooklyn and watched their squad waltz to a 19-point victory. Rivers had been preaching how committed those two guys were ever since the start of training camp. One week later, the proof was sitting in those folding chairs on the baseline.

“That’s the key for us, Joel and James,” Rivers told SiriusXM NBA Radio. “But starting with Joel, I have this saying with him, ‘You can always be Joel Embiid but when you’re a teammate it goes a lot further.’ All the star players, they can decide I’m that guy, I’m not doing that, but when they give themselves to the team, you win.”

Embiid hasn’t been the easiest teammate to get to know over the years. He likes to stay cooped up in his room playing video games and watching Arsenal highlights, sometimes gently trolling former teammates. That Embiid will never die, but there is a new aura about him. He’s no longer a “loner” who takes his ball and goes home after practice.

“We’re going into our third year together and you can see the progression of like little things,” Rivers said. “Like understanding, staying in the training room longer, hanging out with the guys. Joel is a loner so it’s not natural for him to do it. And he’s doing it so very happy with him.”


Harden, Embiid Learning How to Play Together

A viral practice clip showing Rivers drill Harden on the importance of building chemistry with Embiid is really all anyone needs to know about the 2022-23 season. Those two superstars need to be on the same page for the team to achieve their goals. That’s it. That’s the playbook.

Rivers has been screaming that message to Harden and Embiid. And it appears to be sinking in.

“They’re both great now. And so, it’s tough because they want to be great now themselves and they gotta figure out how to be great with each other. And that’ll happen,” Rivers told NBA Media. “The only thing I’ll say is they all want it. James wants to win. Period. Joel wants to win. Period. And they know they have to figure it out and that’s what I love about it.”


Sixers Rest All-Star Starters, Beat Nets 127-108

Philadelphia was the picture of efficiency against Brooklyn during a 127-108 win in the preseason opener. Rivers rested four big guns: James Harden, Joel Embiid, Danuel House, P.J. Tucker.

Stop worrying. There are no injury concerns with any of those guys, just a matter of managing rest. Tyrese Maxey started and scored a team-high 20 points. He could sit the next one out.

“It’s nothing to read into,” Rivers told The Inquirer. “Tyrese is [21] years old, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t need rest. We are looking at everything. We don’t have a plan moving forward. We will let our eyes tell us what we need to do.”

Next up? The Sixers host the Cleveland Cavaliers on October 5 at 7 p.m.

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