Practice Notes: The Sixers balance fieldwork time and off-court activism


Topping the priority list for Doc Rivers on Tuesday was a refocus on what they went wrong in Sunday’s Game 1 against Washington. The transition defense, as Rivers later explained in his Zoom call with reporters, was so lousy in the first half that he couldn’t even list all the things that were wrong concisely. But before he got there, Rivers wanted to make sure a message got out loud. It started with his t-shirt, with the words “CALL YOUR SENATORS” in big bold letters, urging them to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

“This is Bill George Floyd. This is not political Bill George Floyd. It has nothing to do with whether you are a Republican or a Democrat. I am the son of a policeman, I’m pro-police, this has nothing to do with fighting the police. Bill George Floyd, in my opinion, is a bill that both parties should want to pass. key points is police training so that we can better train our policemen – I think every policeman would like that.

“The fact that it takes six months to be a police officer and a year and a half to get your barber’s license tells you that we need more training … I’m a Democrat, I called all my Republican friends – and I have a lot of them – tell them this is a bill that should be passed. He should be bipartisan. It shouldn’t have anything to do with which side of the aisle you are on. “

Rivers will not stop there, noting the specific political features of the bill inspired by Floyd’s murder. Qualified immunity, which has provided cops and other government officials with protection from civil lawsuits, is something Rivers believes should be looked at to weed out bad cops. As he would answer more questions about his willingness to speak out outside of court, Rivers noted that we have seen waves of discrimination and violence against other minority communities over the past year, including (but not limited to) the AAPI and the Jewish communities.

Eventually, of course, he was eager to note that he’s a basketball coach at the end of the day, that their goal of winning a title would prove impossible to turn away. This is another area where Rivers has the track record to prove it – it is the coach who led the LA Clippers through the final controversy of the Donald Sterling era, winning a playoff series against the Warriors with the eyes of millions of people beyond the sports world trained. on them.

It’s the impossible battle to be a public figure in 2021. Stay silent on the issues of the day and a certain segment of the population will never look at you the same way again. Speak up, and you are often reduced to your job title, as if the angry accountant who tweets @Sixers on a social justice post is more qualified to address hundreds of years of American history than a basketball.

As Rivers says, all he does is something simple, succinct, and straightforward: tell the truth.

“I never think I speak,” Rivers said. “I really don’t. I think I’m just telling the truth. I’m not trying to be controversial. I’m political and I need, I try not to be. I love myself. laugh at the other side just like they laugh at us, but I don’t take any of that seriously. There’s never a good time to tell the truth, I guess, but now is the time, everything time. And I believe it. And if that rubs someone wrong, then I’m sorry, but I’m not going to stop telling the truth. Equality and justice, everyone should want it. “

With that, the head coach turns to basketball. How George Hill’s versatility and trapping ability helps them through big times during times of crisis, even though he won’t quite commit to Hill as a regular in the game. with the work he puts in, even though he’s always lagging behind (and knows he’s lagging behind) on the defensive side of the ground. Notably, he ultimately eliminated that list of concerns about their transition defense, a first-half disaster he is glad they were able to resolve midway through the game.

“It was a list, and I’m not kidding,” Rivers said when asked what was wrong during the transition. “No match, run to your own men – the running buddy is what we call it, the balls in front but your man is next to you, you start running with him instead of past the ball – and then communication. You you know, there’s two or three more if you want me to name them. But it’s funny man, you work a whole week and then it happens, you look like what the hell, but we Solved it in the game, which is very important. And I thought Washington definitely got our attention with the way they were playing, no doubt about it. “

Two minutes of Rivers’ time on something he considers important enough to speak out, contrary to what a bad faith reviewer would say, isn’t quite enough to undermine his ability to organize or focus on his team. It’s not even enough to consume a full Zoom presser, with room for people interested in what Rivers has to say on and off hardwood.

Maxey, for example, is someone everyone wants to talk about it now. Just showing up for the game on Sunday was enough to earn a raucous applause from the Wells Fargo Center crowd, as the Philadelphia rookie quickly gained fan favorite status this year. His arc is a motivational storyboard – the excellent initial flashes, swooning midseason and his bounce to end the season, showcasing increased maturity and refinement to his game. Games that end with runners end with layups and free throws, making it a safer bet to help as the games get tougher and more physical.

Rivers, while in a position to do so, is not eager to take credit for Maxey’s development under his leadership. The Maxey you see today, says Rivers, is the product of the invisible work done by the kid while the big-minute guys were resting and recovering during a grueling season.

“At first, you remember, everything was a float, no one else is involved, and so for him to do that jump so quickly, it’s more about him than any coaching he’s had. received or whatever, ”Rivers said. “That speaks volumes about him as a person… it’s amazing, game day, going back to back on the road, he’s there the next morning like clockwork. Kid wants to be really good, and he’s listening. And he’s really improved. “

If there’s one guiding belief in Rivers’ coaching philosophy, it’s treating his guys like the grown men they are (even young Maxey). They have tough conversations, and when it comes to defining roles and making sure players are on the same page, Rivers is as firm and energetic as the moment demands. But at the end of the day, he knows he can only present information before he leaves it to them to act on those discussions. That’s true for basketball, where he’s been blessed with a low-minute group that he says works harder than anything he’s ever had, and that’s true outside of the game, Rivers being aware that not everyone chooses to take responsibility for the public community. spokesperson.

George Hill, one of Rivers’ new players and one of the team’s oldest statesman, has made his priorities clear in recent years. He was one of Milwaukee’s more outspoken players when the Bucks briefly created a work stoppage in the bubble last year following Jacob Blake’s death in Kenosha, Wisconsin last summer. On Tuesday, he shared some of the reasons he chooses to speak out on these issues, rather than just pointing the clock and sitting down.

“Most of these things hit me. I grew up in a tough neighborhood, I grew up in a family that was often involved with the police,” Hill said Tuesday. “I saw it and it touches me in a way. I have a group of kids from the AAU program in Indianapolis looking at me and I have a lot of friends who used to play basketball who [are] either in prison for murder now, or dead too. This is something that has always been instilled in me from the way my parents raised me to speak, to be a leader, not a follower. But at the same time, I grew up the same way. I come from food stamps, I just turn off our lights and sometimes we don’t have food to put on the table, and life is bigger than the sport we play. “

Previews of Game 2 and discussions of the X’s and O’s will come. Rivers and his group are in the midst of preparing for a battle with a team that, if nothing else, will put the pedal to the metal and take them to a series victory. Washington has all-star power, if nothing else, and they’ll almost certainly feel a little more confident after being suspended in the game until the last minute of Sunday’s playoff opener.

Debates over Ben Simmons (whom Hill believes Simmons “shouldn’t do two craps”) will persist. Rivers, as he did when referencing crowd size Sunday, will probably continue to make fun of his political opponents. But this group is looking forward with great clarity, able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

“We keep talking about basketball,” Rivers said. “Our goal is to win a title, we’re not going to get distracted no matter what, but there is also the real life that goes on. And I really believe my players should know what is going on there. , and so we try to do a good job of educating them, and we try to let them say something, do something, or get involved. “

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