Doc Rivers Called Coaching James Harden ‘Challenging’

Prior to the 2022-23 NBA season, a clip from a Philadelphia 76ers practice showed then-head coach Doc Rivers talking to James Harden about how he can help the team become unbeatable. Of course, the Sixers were decidedly beatable this year, as the team blew a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Celtics and went into an offseason that saw Rivers get fired and questions pop up about Harden’s long-term future in Philadelphia.

In the aftermath of the Game 7 loss to the Celtics, Harden sure made it sound like his relationship with Rivers wasn’t in an excellent place, as he simply said their bond was “ok.” Rivers hadn’t spoken about much since then, but during an appearance on Bill Simmons’ podcast, the now-former Sixers coach broke down how “challenging” it could be to coach a player like Harden.

“It was challenging, more because we were fighting two things—and not like visually fighting—it was James is so good at playing one way, and the way I believe you have to play to win, in some ways, is different,” Rivers said, per Bleacher Report. “Because it’s a lot of giving up the ball, moving the ball, coming back to the ball. I would have loved to have him younger, when that was easier for him because giving up the ball and getting back the ball is hard. It’s physical, it’s exhausting.”

Rivers went on to break the year down into the first and second half, and said that Harden’s play was the biggest differentiator in Philly’s success during the former and struggles during the latter.

“So, yeah, at times, to get him to move it and get him to play the way I needed him to play — I thought the first half of the year, we were the best team in the game,” Rivers said. “I thought James was playing perfect basketball. He was the point guard of the team. He was still scoring, but he was doing more playmaking and scoring. Then in the second half, he started scoring more, trying to score more, and I thought we got stagnant at times. I thought we changed.”

Rivers was replaced by former Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse as the head coach of the Sixers.

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