Fresh off a sweep of the Boston Celtics for the first time since
2001, the Philadelphia 76ers continue to be one of the most
dangerous teams in the NBA this season. With a fresh look and new
leadership, it’s been a loud bounce-back year for the Sixers, who
have responded to their previous campaign’s first-round playoff
exit at the hands of those same division rivals.
The disappointing end led to a number of changes from top to
bottom. Philadelphia relieved Brett Brown and brought in Doc Rivers
to take over the head coaching duties. Daryl Morey was hired as
president of basketball operations to assist general manager Elton
Brand in retooling the roster to tailor it to Ben Simmons and Joel
Embiid’s strengths. The Sixers’ front office sent out Al Horford
and Josh Richardson, and added the likes of Seth Curry, Danny
Green, Dwight Howard and rookie Tyrese Maxey in the
The results of the facelift have proven to be fruitful
team-wide, as Philadelphia is currently tied with the Brooklyn Nets
for the best record in the Eastern Conference at 35-16. Though
Simmons and Embiid have been the stars of the show, Tobias Harris
has been the Sixers’ true X-factor, producing to the tune of 20.5
points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game on 52.2% shooting and
over 40% from deep.
According to InStat, Harris has also made 56.9% of his post-up
shots, trailing only Kawhi Leonard and Robin Lopez among those
players who have attempted a minimum of 100 tries.
“I think he’s been finishing all season, especially down the
stretch,” Rivers said. “He’s been one of our go-to guys, and he
keeps coming up. We keep putting him in the right position. He’s
aggressive, he’s attacking. Tobias and efficiency pretty much go
In his second full year with Philadelphia, Harris reflects on
why it’s worked so well for this version of the Sixers.
“It's clicking in a lot smoother way,” Harris told
BasketballNews.com in an exclusive interview via Zoom. “You have
guys who are older now, who understand the heartbreak of last
season. We have different playmakers on the court this year, a
little bit more spacing out there. Doc Rivers has come in and just
implemented his style and his way of coaching [on] this whole team.
There's a lot of things that have directly impacted our
“Myself personally, and my play, has been impacted from all
those factors and reasons. This has been a really good year. The
biggest thing in a season, in my opinion, is staying healthy and
being ready for the playoffs, and that's where we're trying to get
to right now, in the best way possible. It's been a lot of fun,
that's one thing I will say. Like a condensed season like this, the
early start, call it what it is, but overall this has been a great
season of a lot of joy for our team thus far."
There’s just something about Rivers that brings out the best in
Harris. When the two were with the Los Angeles Clippers, the
28-year-old had arguably his best years as a pro. Back together
again in Philly, their success with one another has
"I would say that just the way that he's pushed me [has
unleashed the best in me],” Harris said. “I think a lot of people
look at it and think like, it magically happens, but he's a coach
that pushes me a whole lot -- on the floor, off the floor -- and he
puts me in those positions to make things happen. He shows a lot of
trust in my game and knows where is best for me on the court, but
also, lets me know where he kinda doesn't want me in
“I think that has been a great deal to the success, and then on
top of that, things are better when you win. So when you're out
there and we're playing winning basketball, that only enhances
everyone else's game, and that has helped myself as well."
Under Rivers, Harris averages 20.4 points and 7.2 rebounds on
nearly 50% from the field, including a 41.9% three-point conversion
rate. The numbers are almost identical to what he’s done in the
current 2020-21 campaign.
The Sixers really needed Harris when Joel Embiid went down with
a knee injury on March 13, especially as the Nets were rapidly
ascending the standings in the East. The veteran forward responded,
leading the team to a 7-3 record in the All-Star big man’s
Harris acknowledges his teammates’ efforts with Embiid on the
sidelines, and looks forward to working "The Process" back into the
mix (Embiid’s monster performance in Boston indicates that it will
be seamless), as Philadelphia now has plenty of experience with and
"We've had a lot of guys step up with his absence, and at the
same time, it's now for us to figure out as a collective group with
five guys, how we can all help each other,” Harris said. “Some
nights, we're gonna need different guys with different efforts, and
that's big in today's league. It's also being out there, figuring
out, 'Hey, let's make the next guy's life a little bit
“I think once we really find that balance and mix, we'll be
where we want to be going into playoffs, and we'll have our
confidence and we'll be able to just flow and roll out there.
That's how I look at that."
Now back at full strength, the Sixers will roll on with Simmons,
Embiid and company. There have been questions before about the
duo’s fit together, however, those concerns have quelled due to the
pair’s success this season and the victories that have come with
"I think for them, it's been the balance and simplification,”
Harris said. “For Joel, it's like, hey, you're the most dominant
big in the NBA [and] one of the best post players analytically, if
not the best in the NBA, when it comes to points per possession on
the blocks and whatnot. It's like, hey, if that's your best
offense, go down there and be a beast, right? And then for Ben,
it's hey, in transition, you're one of the fastest guys in the NBA,
right? So use it and abuse it, at the end of the day. And you're
one of the best passers in the NBA, and best decision-makers, so
let's figure out how we can put all those things
“Doc has done a great job of that, and they've done a great job
of just listening to that and understanding it, too. I think it was
really simplification of their games, and that honestly has gone
down the line for all the guys on the team. And I think that's been
really helpful and impactful for us."
Whatever happened last year is in the past for these Sixers.
This is a different team.