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76ers are set for familiar faces Doc Rivers and Patrick Beverley to return to Philly with the Bucks

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Daryl Morey had video of an attempted moon landing on mute on his laptop as he explained the role of data analytics in the NBA when, suddenly, a crowd of people clapping popped up on the screen.
Milwaukee Bucks head coach Doc Rivers watches from the sideline during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Daryl Morey had video of an attempted moon landing on mute on his laptop as he explained the role of data analytics in the NBA when, suddenly, a crowd of people clapping popped up on the screen.

Morey paused the conversation as Intuitive Machines employees cheered the first U.S. touchdown on the moon in more than 50 years. Morey and his wife have a great interest in space exploration. Their son once interned at Intuitive Machines and the couple scanned the group for familiar faces at the first private business to pull off a moon landing. The lander managed just a weak signal back until flight controllers scrambled to gain better contact.

“The added drama,” Morey said, laughing.

Who needs to leave Earth to find some when you run the 76ers?

There’s plenty of it swirling around Philadelphia these days as the Sixers orbit a spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

Reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid remains sidelined following early February surgery on his left knee and the Sixers have scuffled without him. They did split on back-to-back nights this week to New York and Cleveland, putting them at 7-15 without Embiid.

At 33-23, the Sixers under coach Nick Nurse are closer to a potential spot in the play-in tournament than they are a top seed in the East.

Want more drama?

A pair of recognizable faces are in town for a Sunday matchup in Philly — former Sixers coach Doc Rivers and former Philadelphia guard Patrick Beverley are here with the Milwaukee Bucks.

“Another game, another chance to be great,” said Morey, in his fourth season as team president. “There’s definitely going to be drama because of Pat and Doc.”

Rivers is back after his penchant for playoff collapses and second-round exits cost him his job at the end of last season. The 76ers fired Rivers following a third straight exit in the second round of the playoffs, and the second time over that span he lost a series lead and a Game 7.

The 76ers held a 3-2 semifinals series lead against Boston before dropping Game 6 at home and were crushed in Game 7 on the road.

Rivers fell to 6-10 in Game 7s. The 10 defeats are five more than any other NBA coach.

Rivers didn’t stay unemployed for long. After a short stint as an ESPN analyst, the Bucks hired Rivers to take over for Adrian Griffin, who was fired in late January after only 43 games.

It’s been a rocky few weeks for Rivers. The Bucks haven’t played at a championship level — since the coaching change — and Rivers has become embroiled in a series of public relations missteps.

Rivers revealed that he told Milwaukee ownership he didn’t understand why it decided to fire Griffin. He then said he asked the Bucks if he could wait until after the All-Star break to take the job. After a loss to Memphis just before the break, Rivers said, “We had some guys here, some guys in Cabo” and that the Bucks gig was “probably more difficult than I thought.”

That prompted former Sixers player JJ Redick, now an ESPN analyst, to criticize Rivers for “always making excuses."

Beverley used social medial to put Redick on blast and defended Rivers, writing, “Doc actually saved your career.”

Ah, yes. Pat Bev.

Beverley was months into his one-year deal with the Sixers when he was sent to the Bucks at the trade deadline, in part to make room for six-time All-Star guard Kyle Lowry. His feelings hurt, Beverley took several digs at Morey and the Sixers on his podcast. Notably, Beverley said everyone wanted to win in Milwaukee and: “It’s not about stats. It’s not about numbers here. It’s not about who gets the ball.”

Morey was nonplussed over Beverley’s comments.

“That’s a little bit of Pat being Pat,” Morey said. “I think there are times in the NBA players' focus a little bit on, yeah, I've got to get 30 tonight or I want to get a double-double, whatever that may be. I think that happens across multiple players, multiple teams at times. I wouldn’t think we’re an outlier there at all.”

Lowry, and 3-point ace Buddy Hield, acquired from Indiana at the deadline, expect to get the bulk of the playing time with All-Star guard Tyrese Maxey in the backcourt.

“I think once he took a step back he understood, ’Yeah, OK, my playing time was going to go way down, they sort of did me a favor,'" Morey said. “He might disagree that we thought Kyle was better. I think it’s reasonable for him to disagree. We made the bet that we thought Kyle was going to be better. That could be wrong, but it was the bet we made. In that bet, we thought Pat going down to very limited minutes wasn’t good for him so that was the trade.”

It’s clear, trades or not, the 76ers will go only as far as a healthy Embiid takes them. Morey remained “hopeful” this week that the two-time scoring champion can return in time for a possible postseason run.

“If things go well, he’ll have a ramp up,” Morey said. “We’re feeling pretty good that he’ll be back this season.”

Whether that return includes playing games or playing it safe and limiting him to practice is yet to be determined.

“I think it will really depend on how it’s going,” Morey said. “He’s doing great. That’s direct from the horse’s mouth. He was at practice (this week), we talked for a while. He’s very optimistic, feeling great. We’re probably going to be slowing him down, a little bit.”



Dan Gelston, The Associated Press