Because the Sixers have clinched the Eastern Conference’s best record in games played through Feb. 21, Doc Rivers will coach the team captained by Kevin Durant in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game on March 7 in Atlanta.
It’s not what he’d be doing if he could choose how to spend his time during the league’s mid-season break for this pandemic-affected season.
“I’d prefer to golf over All-Star break, let me put it that way,” he said before a 112-105 Sixers win over the Bulls headlined by Joel Embiid’s career-high 50 points. “But listen, it’s an honor because that means your team is doing well, so that’s always good. That’s the way I look at it. ... I think the honor should be we win and I get to pick whatever coach I want to coach the All-Star Game from another team. I think that would be hilarious.”
Which coach would he pick?
“Probably Pop,” he said. “It would be awesome.”
Though Gregg Popovich’s Spurs have fared well in a competitive Western Conference, Rivers’ Sixers lead the East with a 20-10 record and are 1.5 games ahead of the second-place Nets. Jazz head coach Quin Snyder, a former Sixers assistant, will lead the team captained by LeBron James.
Like it or not, Rivers and his staff are supposed to coach a game that doesn’t count in the standings. This is the first All-Star Game Rivers will coach since 2011, and the third of his career. The idea of coaching the league’s best talent didn’t sound any more appealing to him when he was asked about it postgame.
“I’m trying not to get in trouble,” he said with a laugh, “so I guess I’m really happy for our team that we’re in this position. I think I’m going to just stop there. I think that would be wise.”
Embiid on Thursday night was named as one of the game’s starters, while the 14 reserves will be announced Tuesday. Rivers thinks Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris deserve to be All-Stars, although his opinion doesn’t hold much sway on that front. The reserves are selected by the NBA’s head coaches, who can’t vote for their own players.
The full rosters for each team will be decided on March 4, when Durant and James will draft from the pool of All-Stars. The Sixers wrap up their first-half schedule the night before against the Jazz, and we imagine Rivers will be more concerned with reviewing that game and perhaps sneaking in some time away from basketball than the composition of his All-Star squad.