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6 Jun 2023

A New Prescription

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June 6, 2023 Category: Sports Posted by:

New 76ers coach Nick Nurse hopes he has the treatment that will get the team beyond Round Two of the NBA Playoffs.

By Chris Murray

For the Philadelphia Sunday SUN

In their latest attempt to bring the City of Philadelphia its first NBA title since 1983, the Philadelphia 76ers introduced new head coach Nick Nurse to the media and a fan base that’s losing patience.

Nurse’s mandate is simple: do something that Doc Rivers and Brett Brown couldn’t do: Win an NBA title or at the very least get out of the second round — something they haven’t done since 2001.

Over the last few years, the team has watched the NBA Finals from their houses thanks to some really bad series losses, the latest to the Boston Celtics in a Mother’s Day game that probably ruined dinner for more than a few people.

But that’s the past, Nurse said in his introductory news conference last week. It’s time to focus on the here and now.

“I don’t really vibrate on the frequency of the past,” he said. “To me, when we get a chance to start and dig into this thing a little bit, it’s going to be only focused on what we’re trying to do going forward. Whatever’s happened for the last how many years doesn’t matter to me…. It’s a clean slate for me. I’m looking forward to how to get it done from start to finish.”

Unfortunately, the media kept pressing the second-round exit issue. Nurse said the only way to face it is just to face it.

“We’re going to hit that head-on,” Nurse said. “We know that we’re judged on how we play in the playoffs. It was the same in Toronto that we hadn’t played that well and certain players hadn’t played that well. The reality is that’s the truth, so I would imagine from day one we’re going to talk about that. We’re going to have to attack we’re going to have to face it and rise above it.”

Daryl Morey, 76ers president of basketball operations, said Nurse was selected because of his .610 postseason winning percentage, his 227-163 career record, and, of course, he led the Toronto Raptors to the 2019 NBA title.

“Obviously, it’s his championship pedigree at multiple levels is a big factor,” Morey. (Nurse’s) creativity. He checks every box, his relationship with players, and working with star players, his tactics. He’s someone that people around the league would play for. It’s a pretty long list and we thought he was a pretty special candidate. … We think it’s one step towards a championship and we think it’s an important step.”

Nurse’s challenge is to turn the NBA’s 2023 most valuable player Joel Embiid into a better, more clutch version of himself. At the very least, he must put Embiid in a better position to maximize his talent.  That’s going to be tough and it’s something that Nurse must figure out quickly before the team’s championship window comes to a close. 

He also faces the very distinct possibility that James Harden and the Sixers will soon part ways. While many in the Delaware Valley have been collecting packing boxes for the erstwhile point guard, Nurse is hoping Harden decides to stay.

“James has a decision to make, and I would be very happy if he came back,” Nurse said.

If Harden is not coming back, Nurse will no doubt be expecting more from 6-foot-2 guard Tyrese Maxey, who seems to get better every year. During this past season, he averaged 20.3 points per game and dished out 3.5 assists per game. 

Nurse said he thinks a player like Maxey is even hungrier to get even better to go along his with his speed to the basket and his improving ability to shoot the basketball. He believes that as Maxey improves as a scorer, he can be even better as someone who can create opportunities for others to score.

“He’s (Maxey) got a tremendous chance to improve and take a step forward,” Nurse said. “There are some specifics I would say …Be more of a creator …creating is you’re scoring or drawing more people than one, and then you’re creating for others.  Can he make all the reads? I think that’s the first place I would start offensively is getting more reps in the pick and roll so he can make the reads to all the players on the floor depending upon what he sees.”

Harden’s imminent departure will mean that the Sixers will be scouring the earth for a free-agent shooting guard who can play defense. Most of the speculation by fans and more than a few media outlets are saying that Toronto Raptors free agent point guard Fred VanVleet, who averaged 19.3 points per game and shot 34 percent from three-point range during 2022-2023 season while playing for Nurse this season.

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