Less than two days after his Philadelphia 76ers were bounced out of the playoffs by losing Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Atlanta Hawks on their home court, team president Daryl Morey was emphatic in his belief that the level of negativity that surrounds the franchise at the moment doesn’t match reality.
“A lot of what I’m reading I frankly don’t understand,” Morey said in an end-of-season virtual news conference Tuesday afternoon. “People [are] saying the Sixers are in a bad situation.
“I don’t choose to come here, [coach Doc Rivers] doesn’t choose to come here if this is a bad situation. I mean, really 25 or 26 teams in this league would love to be in our situation with an MVP-caliber top player and All-Star, near All-Star, great young players who are signed for the long term, good veterans.
“So, we’ve got a good foundation. We just have to do better, I have to do better, everyone has to do better.”
In the wake of Philadelphia’s season ending in such disastrous fashion, the person who has received the most blowback for his performance is star guard Ben Simmons, who was nonexistent offensively in the fourth quarter throughout the series, and scored a combined 19 points in Games 5, 6 and 7.
Not surprisingly, that led to Morey being asked — on several occasions — to commit to Simmons being on the roster next season. And, not surprisingly, Morey went out of his way to avoid making any sort of definitive statement either way about the long-term future of Simmons or anyone else currently on Philadelphia’s roster.
“We have a very strong group we believe in,” Morey said. “None of us can predict the future of what’s going to happen in any, in any place. We love what Ben brings, we love what Joel [Embiid] brings, we love what Tobias [Harris] brings; in terms of what’s next, we’re gonna do what’s best for the 76ers to give us the best chance to win the championship with every single player on the roster.”
He did, however, say at one point that “I think it’s pretty straightforward what certain players need to improve,” which isn’t far off from Rivers saying Monday that Simmons simply has to improve as a foul shooter after dropping to a dismal 34.7% from the free throw line in the postseason.
But Morey also went in depth about the team’s offensive issues overall, saying the Sixers have to get better at that end of the court, before going back over some of what caused Philadelphia to drop Game 7 on its home court — a result Morey himself admitted he still was processing.
“We need to be a better offensive team,” Morey said. “I mean we’re two days after … you can tell it’s a little raw still. I think if you replay that Game 7 a bunch of times and, you know, we execute better, then we win. But look, reality is reality. We didn’t do it and, and frankly if we’re squeaking by the second round that just tells me we’re not, we’re unfortunately not good enough, probably, to win the title so we need to get better.
“But, you know, the game, that series, is still incredibly painful.”
Morey also gave a lot of credit to Embiid for the way he pushed through the second round with a small tear in his lateral meniscus. Embiid averaged 30.4 points and 12.7 rebounds against Atlanta despite the injury. Morey said that Embiid was getting a full medical review by Philadelphia’s doctors and that any decision made about his health, and whether he’d require surgery, would be made after that.
“Yeah, I mean, I think we’re all super impressed with what Joel was able to do,” Morey said. “I mean he’s the, you know, sort of the heart and soul of the team, and what he did every night for us will forever be appreciated.
“In terms of, like, what’s next, I know they’re going through a full assessment of him right now, the medical staff along with Joel and his very good team of advisers, and the next step will be determined from that.”