Doc Rivers wants James Harden to play more like James Harden.
A three-time scoring champion, Harden is one of the NBA’s most lethal scoring threats. However, the 76ers point guard shot a combined 8-for-36 in his last two games before Monday’s contest against the Denver Nuggets at the Wells Fargo Center.
“I thought in particular [Sunday], I thought he came out to be more of a passer,” Rivers said of Harden’s 5-for-19 shooting effort against the Orlando Magic.
Harden attempted just three shots in the first quarter and eight total in the first half of the 116-114 overtime victory against the Magic.
“I told him I don’t necessarily like that,” Rivers added. “I want him to be more aggressive early. His ability and his instincts will find where to pass the ball. I thought in the fourth he got more aggressive.”
That’s when Harden scored seven of his 26 points on 1-for-4 shooting and going 4-of-4 from the foul line.
“I like the aggressive version of James more than the point guard version of James,” Rivers said, “because he’s going to be a point guard anyway just with his instincts.”
Rivers will tell you the Sixers have a deep rotation that includes 11 guys to shuffle. He considers that a good thing.
“Will all 11 play? Probably not,” he said. “But it gives us an opportunity to make changes when we need to. We can go with the bigger lineup with D.J. [DeAndre Jordan] in it. We can go to a small lineup with Tobias [Harris], Georges [Niang] and James [Harden].
“It gives us great flexibility. The bad part of that is we don’t have a lot of time.”
But has Rivers considered reducing the rotation to eight players for the postseason?
The Sixers’ starting lineup consists of Matisse Thybulle, Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, Harris and Harden. Shake Milton, Isaiah Joe, Niang, and Jordan came off the bench on Sunday. Key reserve Danny Green returned on Monday after missing the previous two games with a left middle-finger laceration.
“It’s always earned,” Rivers said of reducing his rotation to eight players. “It really is. It’s not anything where a coach says, ‘Hey, we’re going to have a nine-man rotation.’ It’s really earned and how guys are playing, so it’s very fluid and flexible.”
Jason Kelce national anthem
Eagles center and noted Sixers fan Jason Kelce sang the national anthem before Monday’s game against the Nuggets.
He’s offered Ben Simmons analysis and sat courtside during the Sixers season, but this was the first time Kelce hit the court. And he didn’t disappoint.