On Monday, the 76ers hired their third coach of the process era (if you still want to say we are in it) in Nick Nurse.
Nurse was the head coach of the 2019 NBA Champion Toronto Raptors and won Coach of the Year in 2020. That 2019 team also knocked the Sixers out of the second round with a Kawhi Leonard buzzer-beater in Game 7.
Nurse is viewed highly for his creativity on both sides of the court. Many individuals around the association pinpoint the 2020 season as a rationale for Nurse being such a good coach, as he guided his team to a 53-19 campaign in the pandemic-shortened season after losing Leonard in free agency. Sixers star and reigning MVP Joel Embiid has spoken highly of Nurse, stating how much respect they have for each other.
Yes, yes, I will admit it. Nick Nurse may very well be the best hire the Sixers could have made this offseason. He has the credentials of a winner. But the Sixers franchise does not. So, does it really matter who the coach is?
There are not many boosts I can pinpoint between Nurse and former Sixers head coach Doc Rivers, who was just released from his duties earlier this month, other than that Nurse is younger and has a more recent championship, I guess?
I also do not think this past season should be blamed on the head coach, and more the men on the court, especially the so-called “best player on the team.”
There has been one constant throughout “the process.” One guy has been there through it all. The ups, the downs, and everything in between. His nickname is literally “the process.”
It is Joel Embiid.
The Sixers have made the playoffs every season since 2018. That is three head coaches, eleven opponents, two stars backing up Embiid, one Embiid, and zero Eastern Conference Final appearances.
The two constants: one Embiid, zero Eastern Conference Final appearances.
We cannot just refuse to say it anymore. Joel Embiid is not a winner. And neither is James Harden, for that matter.
It is obvious that Embiid is the problem.
Does this mean trade Embiid? No. Embiid is still a tremendous player with incredible talent for his size, in the regular season that is. He cannot lead a team to a championship, especially the Philadelphia 76ers who also has a generational loser running the show in president of basketball operations Daryl Morey.
The Sixers have provided Embiid names like Jimmy Butler, James Harden, prime Ben Simmons, Tyrese Maxey, the list goes on. He has played on great teams, especially the 2019 team with Butler and last season’s team with Harden and Maxey. I get it Harden did not perform up to standard, especially in Game 7 against the Boston Celtics But look at Embiid’s stat line from that night. In 38 minutes, he scored 15 points and grabbed either rebounds. That is an incredibly bad performance in the biggest game of the man’s life. Or what about a clinching Game 6 at home? In the last six minutes, crunch time, zero points. Goose egg. Nada. And to follow, in the postgame media conference, Embiid blamed his teammates for it.
If Embiid is the regular season MVP, he has to play like it in the playoffs, in the big moments. The lights are just too bright for him.
And can a new coach change this? Embiid has not been clutch in the postseason his entire career.
What says he continues his dominance this season? He has had three-straight MVP-level years. When does the 7-foot, 280-pound 29-year-old begin to burn out?
Can Nick Nurse fix this?
Can he walk into the building and reconstruct a broken star player with a generational loser of a president?
We will have to see.