During Monday’s introductory press conference, new 76ers coach Doc Rivers talked about how excited he was to work with what he feels is a talented roster.
Even though he has coached for two decades in the NBA, Rivers will have to learn how to utilize his new players such as All-Stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. One person Rivers won’t have to do much homework on is 6-foot-8 forward Tobias Harris, who will be entering the second season of a five-year, $180 million contract.
Rivers coached Harris for a little more than a year with the Los Angeles Clippers. During that brief time, Harris played some of the best basketball of his nine-year career.
Harris was acquired by the Clippers on Jan. 29, 2018 in a trade with the Detroit Pistons.
In the 2018-19 season’s final 32 games after he was acquired by the Clippers, Harris averaged 19.3 points and shot what was a career-best 41.4% from three-point range. The Clippers didn’t make the playoffs that season.
In the next year, Harris was playing even better. In 55 games, he averaged a career-high 20.9 points and shot personal bests of 49.6% from the field and 43.4% from three-point range.
A pending free agent, the Clippers traded Harris to the Sixers on Feb. 6, 2019. In addition to Harris, the Sixers acquired Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott. The Clippers received Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, Landry Shamet, and four draft picks.
All told, in parts of two seasons with the Clippers, Harris appeared in 87 games, averaged 20.3 points, and shot 48.7% from the field, including 42.6% from three-point range.
As a comparison, this past season for the Sixers, Harris averaged 19.6 points and shot 47.1% from the field. The big difference was that he shot 36.7% from beyond the arc.
With the Clippers, Harris shot the best of his career from beyond the arc. Take away the 87 career games with the Clippers and Harris has shot 35% from three-point range with his other four teams, including the Sixers.
So playing for Rivers was good for Harris’ career, and the new Sixers coach is looking forward to the reunion.
“I loved coaching him,” Rivers said. “I like that he’s a multi-positional player, you know, he’s a big three [small forward]. He’s a quick four [power forward], that’s how we used him a lot in LA, we kept moving him back and forth to different spots.”
Rivers encouraged Harris to shoot.
“I love his shot, he has a great in-between game which is sometimes lost in today’s game,” Rivers said. “And I think he’s a terrific straight-line driver, and you have to just put him in the positions to do that.”
One of Rivers’s strengths is that he has always devised ways to get his players good looks at the basket, and Harris was no exception.
“With us, we put him in more pick-and-rolls, I think, than he has been in his entire life,” continued Rivers. “And, you know, pick-and-rolls to me are about combinations. If you put two combinations together, you create problems defensively for the other team. Tobias can do that, so I am really looking forward to working with him again.”