There are coaches and players that simply fit together. Their collaboration doesn’t require each to be elite at their respective roles because they can eventually thrive. Doc Rivers and Tobias Harris, who are both instrumental to the Philadelphia 76ers’ strong season this year, are a good example of that.
Let’s quickly back up for a bit.
Harris caught a ton of slander during his 2019-20 campaign, and though we can put blame on then-head coach Brett Brown’s erratic system, much of it was well-deserved.
The Sixers front office chose him over fan-favorite Jimmy Butler and awarded him with a whopping five-year, $180 million contract in the 2019 off-season. Then, while Butler kept doing wonders for his new team, the Miami Heat, Harris remained as the decent third man in Philly. He did have solid stats but it was clear that he was just riding along more than anything. When he got called upon following Ben Simmons’s injury in the bubble, not much happened. Then, as the Sixers got swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics, he could only muster 15.8 points per game on 38.3% shooting in the series.
Overrated, overpaid, untradeable – Harris heard it all for basically a whole season.
Things are now looking different with Rivers the helm. Harris appears to be more comfortable and effective in his role, similar to what happened in their first go-around while with the LA Clippers.
In 27 games this season, Harris is averaging 20.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per contest on 51.8% shooting, all of which are career-highs. The points and boards are actually identical to his previous Clippers stint.
Earlier in the week, Harris guested on the Jalen & Jacoby podcast. Here’s what he said when asked about the difference between Brett Brown and Doc Rivers:
“I think we grew from last year to this year just in terms of maturity, and then you bring coach Doc in… and Doc, he warrants respect the minute he walks in the door, and he’s a coach that, for this team, he’s always pushing us each and every day.”
“Win or loss, we’re trying to find something in a different way to get better. He just has guys locked in. He’s holding us accountable night and night out and really the goal that he’s trying to get this whole team to realize is, we have a chance to win a championship and we need to get there … it’s been a pleasure to be back with Doc. I’m having a lot of fun and so are the guys.”
The Sixers are 20-11 on the season and own the best record in the Eastern Conference. Joel Embiid’s MVP-level of play is the main reason for that, but Harris stepping up has been a factor as well. He’s playing role well through improved shooting, rebounding, and defense.
The 76ers next play on at 8:30 AM Manila time on Wednesday, February 24. They’ll be trying to avenge their recent loss to the Toronto Raptors.