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Doc Rivers embraces the Sixers' size: ‘You have to be the best version of you and not apologize for that’

Rivers loves a "multi-positional" lineup that includes Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and Al Horford. "I think that is the new way."

Tobias Harris (12), Al Horford (42), Joel Embiid (center), Ben Simmons (25)  were part of a towering starting lineup.
Tobias Harris (12), Al Horford (42), Joel Embiid (center), Ben Simmons (25) were part of a towering starting lineup.Read moreMitchell Leff / MCT

The 76ers' front office has been criticized for opting to go big last summer in an era when most teams are going with smaller lineups.

The thought was to play 'bully-ball defense" and “smash-mouth offense” with a season-opening lineup of Tobias Harris (6-foot-9), Al Horford (6-10), Joel Embiid (7-2), Josh Richardson (6-6) and Ben Simmons (6-10).

The lineup underachieved, while the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat advanced to the Eastern Conference finals with centers standing 6-8 and 6-9, respectively.

But new Sixers coach Doc Rivers has no problem with his team’s big pieces.

“You have to be the best version of you and not apologize for that,” Rivers said. “This team has great size, great athleticism, great multi-positional players, I think that is the new way.

"What I do like from afar is this team has the ability to morph three or four different lineups that can create problems for other teams. That’s something they definitely can do here.”

In addition to their size, the Sixers are versatile and can be switched onto different positions, defensively. Offensively, Harris plays both forward positions. Simmons plays point guard, power forward and small-ball center. Horford has split time at power forward and center, while Richardson plays both guard positions.

Teams have been trending toward smaller lineups, but the Los Angeles Lakers are expected to be the second straight towering team to win an NBA title.

The Lakers have a commanding 3-1 series advantage in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. Los Angeles has a 6-11 center in Dwight Howard, a 6-10 power forward in Anthony Davis and a 6-8 point forward in LeBron James.

Last season, the Toronto Raptors won the NBA title with a lineup featuring Marc Gasol (6-11) at center and Pascal Siakam (6-9) at power forward. Serge Ibaka (7-0) was the sixth man. Small forward Kawhi Leonard was the Raptors' best player and the NBA Finals MVP. But Toronto took advantage of its imposing size.

“I think you have to be who you are,” Rivers said. “I think the mistake a lot of teams have made is that everyone wanted to be Golden State, but nobody can shoot like Golden State so, to me, everyone made a mistake.”

The Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in the finals. That marked the Warriors’ fifth straight NBA Finals appearance. They won the title in 2015, 2017 and 2018 thanks in large part to having sharpshooters Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson. Durant wasn’t on the 2015 team, but won Finals MVPs in 2017 and 2018. A lot of teams trended toward shooting three-pointers and a wide-open style of play due to the Warriors' success.

One problem: Teams didn’t have the trio’s credentials or the standout pieces around them.

Curry was a two-time league MVP, three-time first-team All-NBA selection and a six-time All-Star. Durant, who is now a Brooklyn Net, is a former league MVP, a six-time first-team All-NBA selection and 10-time All-Star. Thompson is a five-time All-Star.

Gentry heading to Kings

Former New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry agreed Tuesday to become the associate head coach of the Sacramento Kings, according to The New York Times. Gentry was a candidate to join the Sixers coaching staff under new coach Doc Rivers.