Sixers fans seem cautiously optimistic about new head coach Doc Rivers' ability to help nudge Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid towards much-needed improvement after a frustrating 2019-20 season.
But one former Sixer thinks the team's two cornerstones can't just think things will magically improve with a new head coach.
It's on them, too.
During a radio appearance Friday, one day after the Rivers news, Charles Barkley gave an interesting take about the Sixers stars and what the coming season holds.
Here's Barkley's segment with 97.5 The Fanatic:
And here are his comments, transcribed:
"Listen, this is going to put a lot of pressure on Ben and Joel. Because how many years have y'all been blaming everything on Brett Brown? For the last three or four years. Well, now Brett Brown is no longer here, Doc's got a great pedigree, I like Doc a lot as a person, I think he's a good coach, so now there's no more excuses for these people calling in and bashing on Brett Brown. It's gonna be on, 'Yo man, when are we gonna hold Ben and Joel accountable?'"
I sort of like this take, because I think a very easy and convenient story line this season will be analyzing the Sixers' results - good or bad - through the lens of Rivers' arrival. And that certainly makes sense, but he's not the only guy in charge of improving this team.
NBC Sports Philadelphia's Noah Levick wrote as much Thursday night after the Rivers news broke:
"Rivers can’t magically transform the 2019-20 roster into a top-five offense or snap his fingers and make the Joel Embiid-Al Horford pairing work. His hiring shouldn’t be used to justify neglect of festering problems."
Totally agree. A big part of the team's success will rightfully fall on its well-paid stars' shoulders.
Of course, it's not like Simmons and Embiid were totally phoning it in this year.
Embiid's points per 100 possessions were down slightly, but his three point shooting improved and his true shooting remained around 59%. Simmons, meanwhile, improved across the board, making more of his free throws, improving his offensive and defensive ratings, and earning a first-team All-Defense nod.
But Embiid's defense needs to return to its 2017-18 form, Simmons needs to develop a more versatile half-court game, and both could stand to be more consistent throughout an 82-game season. So Barkley's not completely wrong, either.
The Rivers partnership has plenty of upside, for all involved. But it's going to take equal effort from everyone to make it work.